Heroes among us: Crandall Canyon Miners Memorial dedication
The Crandall Canyon Miners Monument was dedicated on Sept. 14 with the unveiling of the "Heroes Among Us," sculpture prepared by Karen Templeton. Templeton's design was chosen last fall from a variety of ideas presented by artists from around the state. The families were most impressed with a display sculpture she had prepared with the likeness of fallen rescuer Dale Black. From this early depiction, the sculpture displays the likeness of each of the nine miners who perished in Crandall Canyon.
For Templeton this has been a labor of love, she has mixed feelings now that the sculpture is complete. "I have empty nest syndrome. I am eager to see the faces of the loved ones and their reaction to the sculpture. Artists are always concerned if their work reaches out to the audience and does it do what they set out to do. Each of these miners have become so precious to me. They are dear friends now, although I didn't know any of them when they were alive. Their families are like families to me. They have been such a part of it. Getting to know the families and to know of their loss. They have shared such wonderful memories with me.
"Each sculpture has it's own personality. With Brandon Kimber, his hair had to be just right. With Dale Black he just loved to laugh and he made people laugh with him. I feel like I know each one of them now. Manny Sanchez was deeply loved by his family and he loved his kids, they were the most important thing to him.
"Carlos Payan loved to play with his nieces and nephews, he was shy and laid back, he was the youngest of the miners. With Luis Hernandez, he had a one year old daughter at the time of his death. I really connected with his daughter. I was two years old when my Dad died in a mining accident. I knew the least about Luis, but I know his daughter.
"Gary Jensen loved to tell jokes and he was a gentle soul. Don Erickson just loved to do things he was always busy. Kerry Allred hated to have his picture taken. Every picture of him, had him doing something strange. With Brandon Phillips, I didn't know much about him, but I connected with Brandon immediately, his portrait came and just stayed with me, some of the others, I struggled with, but Brandon stayed with me. He went into the mine to make a good home for his son. He had only been in the mine for 11 days at the time of the accident.
"With this monument, I want the families to know that we know what they lost," said Templeton.
The memorial program opened with Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon welcoming everyone. She said, "I am feeling a definite uplifted feeling. There has been a lot of healing. This memorial will be a beautiful memory to those we have lost."
Gordon introduced those on the program, Pastor Carl Sitterud, a brother-in-law to Dale Black said the invocation. The boy scouts who completed their Eagle projects at the memorial park performed the flag ceremony.
Councilmember Julie Jones supervised the Miners Memorial Park project from the ground up. She expressed her thanks to all those involved in the project. "Karen Templeton put her heart and soul into the project," said Jones. "She has made a place of solace for the families and the community." Jones said the work was done with borrowed manpower and borrowed equipment. Many businesses chipped in to help lend employees and equipment so the project could be completed by Sept. 14. She thanked the seven Eagle scouts who helped out. They stuck with it until their project was complete and then they helped the other scouts complete their projects. The projects included: lighting, planting trees, sod, planters, sprinklers, benches, flag pole, cement and rocks. "Thank you so much, I salute you. There were many hands that came to help the scouts; from the smallest to the largest, I thank you all. We can be proud of what has been accomplished here," said Jones.
Templeton was the next speaker, "It was an honor to create a memorial to the miners of Crandall Canyon." She thanked the family members who had modeled for her so she could get the profiles of the miners just right. She said the monument stands six feet tall so the miners can be looked in the eye and in the face. "The soul resides in the eyes." The six trapped miners face the three rescuers and a short narrative of the accident is between the miners and the rescuers. The monument is curved to represent the bond between the miners and the rescuers and a symbol of how everyone came together and supported the rescue effort. The colors of the rocks represent the mountains and canyons surrounding the community. The monument faces the south so the sun will always warm the faces of the miners. "They were Heroes Among Us. On the face of things they were ordinary men, but willing to risk their lives. Brandon Kimber threw himself across another miner and saved his life. Gary Jensen was one of the many who went back into the mine with a fracture of a hope that they could save them. Heroes Among Us is a place we can come and remember," said Templeton.
Elder Ronald Rasband said he had visited the mine one year ago and the communities and had attended several worship services at that time. He said this is a community of faith and the healing has begun. He sent the love and best wishes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said the community and the miners families have been in their prayers throughout this past year. Rasband said the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. "We need to show tender love and kindness to those who have lost loved ones. May they find comfort in God, who has promised he will share our sorrows," said Rasband.
Catholic Bishop Wester said all miners are heroes as they go into the mines every day to make our lives better. He said Jesus said no greater love hath this man than to lay down his life for a friend. "The miners live on forever in God's kingdom where we hope to join them some day. May they rest in peace," said Bishop Wester.
Mayor Gordon said she has felt a warmth and love and camaraderie with so many people. Her circle of friends has grown this past year ever wider and larger. She treasures her friendships with the miners families. "I hope you become a little less sorrowful as the days go by," said Gordon.
Bryant Bunnell sang a song he had written about a fallen soldier and the loss felt in his absence. "Together we will be, not tonight, but forever," sang Bunnell.
Kristen Kimber Cox, ex-wife of Brandon Kimber spoke. She thanked Karen Templeton for bringing back the miners with their images. "This has been a rough and painful year. Many tears and sleepless nights. I would give anything for just one more day, but one more day would not be enough. This is a peaceful place. There have been many cards from strangers and letters from elementary students. Our pain brought the country and even the world together. You have been a lighthouse to me, you have put a smile on my face when I didn't think I had one in me. These men will not be forgotten; we have precious memories. They haven't left us, we just can't see them any more," said Cox. The miners monument is held up with pride and hard work, but love holds it together. She recited a poem which says we thought of you today and God has you in his keeping; God has you in his heart.
Wendy Black, wife of Dale Black said the project would not have been possible without the help of so many. She thanked the governor for his work to make mining safer. She said Gov. Jon Huntsman is a caring and compassionate man who has been a hero to her through the past months. "Mining is an honorable job, these men died trying to bring light to the world. On Aug. 6, six miners died, on Aug. 16 three rescuers died. I want to honor those who lived. You are all truly heroes to risk your lives for others. You must go out and live life to the fullest," said Black.
Gov. Huntsman thanked all present and those responsible for the memorial. He thanked Karen Templeton who did something that few could do in providing the likenesses of the miners which will provide healing for the families. He said we will all have a tombstone with a word or two on it. Some people go quickly in a tragedy, some go from illness, some surrounded by family. Some go in the international spotlight which was the case one year ago. "You have shown your country and the whole world what it means to pull together as a community. You have learned what it means to love a little more, hug your kids a little tighter. We need to live lives that reflect the goodness of the nine lives that were lost. If you are having a hard day, then come here to this place. Be heroes, this place will forever be an oasis of remembrance. You can see and touch and recall the images of those people we have loved so dearly. We have loved together, we have cried together; we share a common bond. We have a responsibility to these nine human beings. They loved and were loved by others. It's been a tough year, it's time to get beyond the pain and anguish and to celebrate the lives of these good men. It needs to reside in our hearts and our minds of how we can be better people. Embody it in your daily lives. Every day in Huntington should be a better day. You represent all of Utah. Thank you for what you do for this state now and always," said Gov. Huntsman.
The group Three Generations from Washington State sang a song for the families they had written at the time of the tragedy.
Larry Sweeten gave the closing prayer including the scripture references where Christ encouraged his followers to comfort one another and the promise that He would comfort those in need.
The Eagle scouts and the families removed the covering of the monument to reveal the bronze likenesses of the nine miners including: Luis Hernandez, Don Erickson, Kerry Allred, Carlos Payan, Manny Sanchez, Brandon Phillips, Brandon Kimber, Gary Jensen and Dale Black. Family and friends gathered around to view the sculpture and remember the lives of those lost in Crandall Canyon.