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Miracle or Rescue:
They Were Saved

Natalia J. Garland

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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.

Some television 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 money.

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 situation.

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 outcome?

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 theological sense.

Personally, I 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.

Whether the 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 again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002, 2003 Natalia J. Garland