WHITESVILLE, W.Va. -- Chuck Mooney fought back tears as he took his first look at the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial unveiled Friday in Whitesville.
"I'm a grown man," he said, "but I'm not ashamed to cry. He was my baby brother."
Chuck's brother, James, was one of the 29 men killed in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, a short drive down W.Va. 3 from Whitesville.
The 48-foot-long granite memorial has dual purposes. It serves as a tribute to the men who lost their lives in the April 5, 2010, disaster and the first responders on the scene, but also to all miners who have died on the job.
The structure is lined by pieces of coal from the UBB mine and depicts the silhouettes of 29 miners with the biblical phrase, "Come to me all you who labor and I will give you rest."
"Now, they'll never forget," Mooney said.
Ron Dinsmore, the Chapman Technical Group architect who designed the monument, asked for it to be viewed as "an opportunity," not a tombstone.
"This is not a graveyard. It's an opportunity to learn about the rich history of the coal industry in West Virginia and to celebrate and remember the hardworking people that call it home," he said. "To say it has been a great honor and privilege to design such a meaningful project would be a huge understatement -- but to say I wish I hadn't had to would be an even greater one."