November 13, 1909, Cherry, Illinois (Mendota-area). 259 men and boys die underground in a coal mine fire; the 3rd largest mining disaster in America’s history. Eight days later, 21 are rescued. This month marks the 102nd anniversary of that tragedy. (Google the Cherry Mine disaster for the details, or read Karen Tintori’s Book ‘Trapped The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster’ for an amazing account of the story.)
Kathy and I drove out to Cherry for the 100th anniversary of the event. Not much to see anymore except the waste piles from the mine, and an old foundation or two. Some signs document the event, but not much else; not much else except the cemetery. It is an odd thing to walk thru that cemetery and see the gravestones of those mostly-Italian miners; row after row of tombstones with the same death-date. Some of the bodies weren’t recovered for months, but nevertheless their markers carried the same date. This cemetery was created because of that tragedy – and originally was for the miners-only; although today, many of their descendants are buried there with them.
Just as in the days of Noah when almost all of mankind was wiped out – literally on the same day – we look forward to a future date when this world and all life in it will end. 1 John 2:17: ‘The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’ Those 21 survivors of the Cherry Mine fire, trapped in darkness for 8 days, described their feelings upon seeing the light for the first time after they were rescued, as if they were viewing the Glory of Heaven itself. They talked in terms of re-birth; or new birth – given a second chance at life. As we recount our blessings this Thanksgiving Season, let us put our personal relationship with a loving God who called us into His marvelous light, at the top of the list. We were dead, but now are Alive in Christ! Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, you Heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!