Clay rushed to the mine site with his brother, Yancy, and Rex's son, Jason, soon after the explosion.
He spent much of the next week there.
"All the families, we made a bond. We shared in each other's grief and consoled each other. It was a bad time, and [being together] brought out a good feeling."
When the news finally came that Friday that all the men had died, Clay was overwhelmed.
"It destroyed my life. One minute they were there, the next they were all gone," he said. "I felt like I let them all down, that I wasn't there to help. But had I been there, I couldn't have been able to help."
Working in a mine means you spend more time with the men on your crew than your own family, Clay said.
"I lost my biological brother and I lost 28 other brothers," he said.
Clay said he tried to go to as many of the funerals as he could, but, eventually, he had to stop.
"It just got to a point where I couldn't go anymore," he said. "I didn't want to hear it. You want to hear, but you don't want to hear."
Clay knew a lot of the Massey officials, and one called soon after the disaster and asked if there was anything the family needed.
"I told them Rex had bought the metal for his roof and it would be a big help to have it put up," Clay said. "They came to the house and put it up. But a lot of things have changed since then. . . . I don't support Massey like I did, since all this stuff with the violations has come out."
'He's not there'
About a week after the family learned that Rex and the other miners had died, Clay was at Rex's home with his widow, Brenda, when he said Massey Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Adkins and his secretary paid a visit.
He brought with him a settlement proposal.
"He said their lawyers had come up with a $2 million compensation figure. [But Adkins] said, 'We said no, no, that's not enough. We're going to give them $3 million,'" Clay recalled. "He advised she put it in the bank and just live off of the interest."
Clay said he sat there thinking that it was awful fast, a week after the disaster, to be offering a settlement.
"They didn't even give the families time to mourn. They didn't give them time to find out what happened. . . . Nobody was in their right mind at that point."
Since then, Rex's widow has agreed to a settlement with Massey -- a move that Clay didn't support. He wanted to first find out who is at fault.
A few weeks after the disaster, Rex's daughter, Geneva, found out she was going to have a baby.
"Rex will never see his grandchild," Clay said. "He didn't even know he had a grandchild on the way."
Clay said his brother lived a little bit farther down the same road he lives on. Since the disaster, he rarely drives past his house.
"I can't go down there. He's not there," Clay said. "I can't go hunt and fish with him. We can't have lunch together and talk. I won't ever be able to do that again."
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.