During government inspections, Stewart points out throughout her book, many important questions simply went unasked. And after those inspections found problems, no one was held accountable for life-threatening conditions underground.
"Not one Consol employee was disciplined, demoted or fired in the wake of the disaster," Stewart points out.
Just seven days after the tragedy, Rep. Arch A. Moore, R-W.Va., praised Consolidation Coal, claiming that inspection reports "showed the mine was not unsafe before the disaster." Moore had just won election to his first term as the state's governor.
In March 1969, when striking miners rallied for new health and safety legislation in Charleston's Civic Center, then marched to the Capitol steps demanding new state Black Lung and mine safety legislation, Moore criticized them for striking.
"That Moore was indebted to the coal industry for his political success was well known then and would become more obvious in the years to follow," Stewart writes.
In August 1990, Moore began serving nearly three years in federal prisons after pleading guilty to accepting more than $500,000 in payoffs from Beckley coal operator H. Paul Kizer, in exchange for a $2 million refund from the Black Lung Fund.
In the wake of the disaster, UMW President Tony Boyle praised Consol for being one of the nation's most safety-conscious companies.
Boyle later went to prison for conspiring to kill Joseph "Jock" Yablonski along with his wife and daughter. Yablonski was a longtime UMW leader who ran against Boyle for president in 1969. During those same months, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., criticized mine safety conditions. In the wake of the No. 9 tragedy, when federal legislation was pending, Byrd said one of every 10 Appalachian coal miners suffered from pneumoconiosis, or black lung.
Shortly before he died in June 2010, Byrd criticized the explosion at Massey Energy's mine in Montcoal on April 5, 1910.
"I am sick. I am saddened and I am angry. We have the laws. We have the resources. These tragedies, on this scale, should no longer be happening," Byrd said in a quote Stewart uses at the very beginning of her book.
"All too often, the drive to produce coal -- to make money, to meet contracts, to satisfy stockholders -- has trumped safety," Stewart adds.
After the Mannington explosion, many coal industry leaders continued to argue coal dust does not cause black lung disease and breathing problems.
"No. 9" also mentions efforts by miners and their widows, especially leaders like Sara Lee Kaznoski, to get state and federal legislation passed, with help from political leaders like Rep. Ken Hechler, D-W.Va.
Kaznoski was one of seven widows of miners who died who refused to sign agreements with Consolidation Coal. In exchange for promising not to file any lawsuits, Consol gave widows payments of $10,000 for the deaths of their husbands.
The tragedy did have one positive result.
"If the families of the dead have found any peace," Stewart writes, "it has come from knowing that their loved ones made coal mining safer for thousands of men and women who would earn their incomes underground."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or (304) 348-5164.