The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'We lived the miracle'

Mine rescue and 9/11 crash alter life in Pa. county

Describing to out-of-staters where she lives, Linda Zellem used to say it was a little town southeast of Pittsburgh.

Now she tells them her house is next to the Sipesville Volunteer Fire Co. station that served as headquarters for the "miracle rescue," when nine men were pulled from the flooded Quecreek Mine in July 2002. She also tells them she lives 20 minutes from where Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought terrorists for control of the jet Sept. 11.

"It's amazing how everyone knows," says Zellem, a member of Christ Casebeer Lutheran Church, Somerset, Pa. The two events catapulted sleepy Somerset County into fame.

Life has calmed down since the rescue, but things will never be the same. Both the mine rescue and crash sites are pilgrimage stops for a stream of visitors to learn about the events residents won't forget.

"People are proud of the way Somerset County responded both to the 9/11 crash and also to the mine rescue," says William R. Lloyd Jr., a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Somerset. "I think that really touched a chord."

Not all of the outcome from the "miracle rescue" has been positive: One of the rescuers committed suicide, several of the nine miners suffer from stress, and a lawsuit filed against the mining company and other contractors has stirred mixed emotions. But for most, nothing will change the larger picture.

"It was wonderful that everybody pitched together and worked hard, and I believe God was involved in making everything come out the way it did," says Randy Musser, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Buckstown, Pa., and president of Musser Engineering, which helped in the rescue.

"We lived the miracle," Zellem says.


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February issue


Embracing diversity