Like the eight other miners who were trapped in the Quecreek Mine, Blaine Mayhugh thought he would die 245 feet underground.
Mayhugh was one of nine men from Black Wolf Coal Co. working in a seam when 50 million gallons of water unexpectedly flooded the mine. It was 77 hours before the men were rescued and their names enshrined in coal mining history.
“It’s just amazing that I’m even here,” Mayhugh said. “It was very bad.”
Mayhugh and fellow miners Tom Foy and John Unger joined more than 100 visitors at the rescue site in Sipesville on Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Quecreek rescue.
The event was held at the 200-year-old Dormel Farms, owned by William and Lori Arnold.
The 77-hour drama captivated the world in July 2002.
The story of the mine rescue lives on at the farm, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Saturday for the visitors center.
The event included the national anthem sung by Hannah Taylor, Pennsylvania Maple Queen from Boswell, and a flag presentation ceremony led by Mason Jamieson, of Sipesville Boy Scout Troop 533.
Former Gov. Mark Schweiker and U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, recalled the historical rescue.
“What occurred here was nothing short of remarkable,” Schweiker said. “It’s why you have a visitors center. We can tell the whole world that as proud Pennsylvanians, what we endeavored here was successful.”
Schweiker said that mining accidents often end in tragedy, but Quecreek was different.
“We came together on those warm summer days in July of 2002 asking the good Lord ... help us with this one,” he said, his voice choked with emotion.
“Think about it. Most die, but in Quecreek all lived,” he said.
Critz said the visit to Sipesville was an emotional one.
“This is something that emotionally has changed my life,” he said. “As we were going through this, we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.
“This is what we’re all about in this part of the world,” he said. “It’s about standing up, sticking together and pulling along.”
Critz, who at the time was an aide to U.S. Rep. John Murtha, rolled up his sleeves and helped rescuers pump water from the cavern.
“Every level of government was pitching in to save those miners,” Critz said.
“We were all part of what makes this nation great – pulling together and making sure that we’re helping each other.”
Eleven months earlier, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville after passengers stormed the cockpit when terrorists commandeered the plane.
“Two such monumental events is amazing,” said David Hess, who was then secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “Somerset has a right to be proud of the role it played in both these events.”
Mayhugh never went back into the mine. He now works for CSX Railroad, while Foy is employed by Center Rock Inc. in Berlin.
“A couple of times we didn’t think we was going to make it,” Foy said. “I just thank God everything turned out the way it did.”
Mayhugh said he recently saw his son graduate from high school.
“I was given a second chance, and I’m making the most of it,” he said.