Miracle or Rescue:
They Were Saved
Natalia J. Garland
The nine miners who were trapped in the Quecreek Mine in
Somerset, Pennsylvania, have been saved. Some interesting
perspectives and terminology have emerged as a result of the
miners having been lifted up to daylight.
news reporters and anchors began referring to the miners'
outcome as a miracle. Some were even having a sort of
quasi-theological disagreement over whether it was a minor
miracle or a major miracle. Now, the concept of
miracles involves a belief in a diety, and a recognition of
divine intervention into the daily affairs of humans. What
surprises me about the reporters' statements is that, not long
ago, some people were very upset over the use of the term,
"under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance and
the inscription, "In God We Trust," on American
Nobody seems to
be complaining about the references to miracles. This makes
me wonder if people really know what a miracle is, or if the
word is just used as an exclamation of amazement and happiness.
One individual, David Streets, a relative of miner Robert
Hughs, said, "I don't want to use the term loosely, but
it was a miracle." Street's caution strikes me as a
thoughtful approach to an emotional situation, and a
respectful use of a basically religious concept.
Was it a
miracle? Biblically and historically, miracles were usually
performed in extreme, hopeless, impossible, or unmanageable
cases. Lazarus was raised from the dead. People were healed
of diseases which the medical professions could not treat.
The loaves and the fish were multiplied to supply an urgent
need for food for many people.
In the Catholic
tradition, miracles are usually associated with a saint or a
place of pilgrimage. The Protestant traditions are more
difficult to define, but miracles seem to be associated with
a certain ministry or revival group, or the result of church
prayer and laying-on of hands. The consequence of a miracle
was often the acquisition of faith by those involved in the
Let's take a
closer look at the Quecreek Mine disaster. The miners were
ages 30-55. Perhaps they were healthy enough to survive a
three-day ordeal. They acted as a cohesive unit. They
huddled together to keep warm. They made a conscious decision
to survive together or die together. The power of mere human
cooperation had to be a significant component. One can only
imagine what could be accomplished if we all supported one
another on such a level in our day-to-day lives.
In addition, the
rescuers never gave up. The governor of Pennsylvania, Mark
Schweiker, said, "It was the culmination of some
remarkable planning, intense effort and teamwork..."
Could it be that the determination of the miners and the
rescuers was the factor that brought about a successful
How did the
miners themselves perceive their situation? One miner, Harry
Mayhugh, was interviewed by the press. He said, "It was
a miracle. Between God and my wife and my kids, that's the
only things that got me through." His wife said that she
kept praying. Mayhugh's statement seems like a genuine
expression of gratitude. His hierarchy of relationships--God,
wife, kids--was probably deeply appreciated after his three
days of darkness.
Does it matter
if the miners' outcome was a miracle or a rescue? Well, we
need to be in agreement on the meanings of words. Otherwise,
we cannot communicate with one another. Equally important,
people need to know what their belief system is all about. If
you believe that you are the recipient of a miracle, that
would seem to place you in a very special category. Most of
us probably are not going to receive miracles, not in a true
have no problem believing that Mrs. Mayhugh's prayers were
heard, that God somehow aided the rescue process, and that
these families were given a second chance on life. Now, if
the rescue effort had been bypassed, in other words, if an
angel had come down and lifted the men up on a cloud, or if a
beam of Heavenly light had shone through and guided the men to
safety, that would have been a truly supernatural experience.
A miracle, by definition, has to surpass the laws of nature.
miners' outcome was a miracle or a rescue, I will thank God
that the men were saved and their families were spared.
(Written 07/29/02 - Revised 12/10/03: bibliography available.)
Until we meet