In July 2002, Somerset County, Pennsylvania was still reeling from the events of September 11, 2001. The residents of the community had been directly affected by that day when one of the hijacked planes crash landed in the county. What they didn’t know was that less than 11 months later and roughly 11 miles away, tragedy was about to strike again.
What started as a normal workday on July 24, 2002 for nine miners at the Quecreek Mine turned into disaster when their mine flooded, leaving them trapped more than 200 feet below the earth’s surface. First responders rushed into action, and it was quickly discovered that the miners were trapped directly under Dormel Farms, owned by Bill and Lori Arnold.
Immediately, Bill and several other first responders set to work digging an air shaft to the miners. From Bill’s first scoop of earth early in the morning of July 25 until all nine miners were pulled up alive over 72 hours later, the world was captivated by the events that occurred in this rural section of Somerset County.
After the rescue, life went back to normal in Somerset County. However, over the coming months and years, people began to visit the farm where the dramatic rescue had happened. Wanting to preserve the area, the Arnolds set up the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation and started plans to open a visitors center and memorial area on the site.
Finally opened in 2012, ten years after the incident, the visitors centers at the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site offers visitors a fantastic opportunity to learn more about this amazing story.
Inside the visitors center is nearly every artifact from the event that could be collected. On display is everything from the miners’ clothes to their lunch boxes and even the actual capsule that the miners used to escape the mine. Recently, they even acquired the NBC television van that broadcast the network’s coverage of the event. Like I said, they have everything possible from the event.
If you are lucky enough to visit when Bill or Lori Arnold are on-site, they are more than willing to tell you many of their amazing stories. I had the fortune of touring the museum with Bill, who regaled me with many stories about the events and the miners. Hearing about the rescue from his personal perspective made the events come alive and helped me to better understand the significance of the site.
Outside the museum sits the actual rescue site. Looking very similar to how it did in 2002, the site still features all of the holes that were dug to reach the miners (though they have been capped for safety), as well as several additional pieces of equipment that were used during the rescue.
No matter how many artifacts they have though, what makes the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site so amazing is to be able to stand where history happened and the ability to hear first person accounts of the amazing events that happened during those 77 hours in July 2002.
For anyone that remembers the events of those days, the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site and Visitors Center is a fascinating place to visit.
Note: My visit to the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site was hosted by the museum. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Quecreek Mine Rescue Site
Museum Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 11am-4pm
Address: 151 Haupt Road