Cherry, IL Coal Mine Disaster, Nov 1909
NINETY-ONE RESCUED ALIVE IN CHERRY MINE.
BLACK PIT GIVES UP ITS VICTIMS.
TWENTY-ONE BROUGHT TO SURFACE AND RESTORED TO FAMILIES -- SEVENTY MORE AWAIT AT BOTTOM OF PIT FOR RESCUE PARTY WHICH IS BLASTING ITS WAY TOWARD THEM.
Cherry, Ill., Nov. 20 -- The St. Paul Coal Mine has given up its living.
At midnight there had come alive out of the pit twenty-one men who for a week had been given up for dead. At that hour upwards of 70 men were known to be alive in the mine but had not yet been brought to the surface, while it was reported that fifty others might have achieved the seemingly impossible and escaped death.
The return of the men to life one week after their burial alive came so suddenly that the whole community was stunned. The men came to tell tales of hardship and privation and suffering as only the pen of a Poe could adequately describe. They told of fighting first against death in the shape of fire and later against the slow death of suffocation.
For seven days they subsisted on what little food was in their buckets and the bark of the mine timbers and drank the oil from their lamps and the seepage in the gutters of the mines. For seven days they watched and waited and prayed for rescue and tuned their ears to sounds from the outside world that would tell them that saviors were near at hand.
Then when all were sinking to the apathy of despair and the songs they had sung and the stories they had told no longer served to keep their minds off their approaching doom, rescue came and willing hands dragged them from their prison 300 feet under the earth's surface and brought them up to home and friends.
History has seldom recorded so providential a rescue and rarely has the world witnessed such scenes as attended the return of the entombed men to life.
The first news that men were still living in the mine reached the surface at 2 p.m. For days the interior of the mine had been a fiery furnace and all hope that men might still be living in the subterranean tunnels had been abandoned. Volunteers had gone down to being up the dead and could scarcely believe their own senses when they found men living.
The news spread like wildfire throughout the stricken village and before the first of the entombed men had stepped out of the cage on the surface a dense throng surrounded the mouth of the pit. Men, women and children deserted their homes and ran some of them half clad to the mine's mouth. The two companies of state troops that had been sent by Gov. Benson to prevent disorder when dead bodies were brought up, found no disorder until the living appeared.
Women whose husbands, brothers or sweethearts had been buried since the fire broke out became hysterical in their excitement and fought with the soldiers to reach the mouth of the shaft.
Many swooned. These whom the soldiers held back as gently as they could, returned again to the attack and seizing the guns of the soldiers endeavored to wrench them from their hands. Many got through the lines and would have hurled themselves head foremost into the pit had they not been restrained.