(Part 3 of our weekend trip)
The road to Sago is peaceful. serene countryside vistas abound. When you turn off the highway onto Sago Road you have no indication that a coal mine lies ahead. The road passes farms and small houses, and the turnoff to Ron Hinkle's Dying Art Glassworks.
Then the railroad tracks are suddenly right beside you. Coal is scattered in the gravel of the railbed.
The Sago schoolhouse, built in 1867, testifies to the length of time people have lived and farmed in this valley.
Then you see it, off to the right of the road. It's modest, taking up only a small piece of land near the church. Some people are there, a young girl taking pictures, an older man standing with ihs cap in his hand, a young couple who look uncomfortable. There is nowhere to hide here--the stark monument stands without shade, putting the faces on its surface in bright sunlight.
I am startled to see my image reflected in the stone after I take the picture, centered with the men who died encircling me.
There are many little gifts and flowers at the monument. The old man tells us that he knew some of the men who died, worked with them in the mines in years past. He seems unbelieving, shaking his head as he talks about his friends and his days in the mines. My husband talks to him; I read the monuments in silence, then talk to the girl and her parents.
The older man is their uncle who lives nearby. They are from Pennsylvania, bringing her mother (I realize there's an elderly lady in the car) to visit her brother.
Coal trucks keep up a continuous roar behind us as they turn into the road that will take them to the loading facilities for the train. A water truck comes by, spraying water to keep down the gray dust.
We drive away from the monument and toward the mine, only a half-mile away. I get out to take pictures and am amazed at how quiet and clean it all looks, no sign of the tragedy that happened there. The coal is still running, the trucks moving load after load as I watch. I want to take a picture, but will it anger the drivers? They've probably had many, many people here, doing the same thing I am doing.
I snap a quick picture as a truck disappears up the road to the mine.
We leave, quiet and somber. And yet, glad we came. We will come again.