HUNTINGTON Wendy Black rubbed her late husband's cold cheek, now part of a bronze sculpture unveiled Sunday at sunset in front of hundreds who remembered losing nine men over a year ago.
Manny Sanchez, Carlos Payan, Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Brandon Phillips and Don Erickson died Aug. 6, 2007, during a collapse at the Crandall Canyon Mine, which became their final resting place.
Dale Black, Brandon Kimber and Gary Jensen, three would-be rescuers, were killed 10 days later during another collapse.
Erickson's wife, Nelda, fought back tears as she hugged family members of the other victims after a group of Scouts removed a yellow tarp from a stunning wall of bronze images that closely depict the faces of each of the nine miners.
The monument at the new Miners Memorial Park is at the west edge of town, near a cemetery where Black is buried and not far from a school where families waited day after day for any good news about the six trapped miners.
The woman who sculpted the images wanted her creation to be 6 feet high, so people could look the men in their eyes.
"I believe the soul resides in the eyes," Karen Jobe Templeton told the crowd before the unveiling.
She wanted the men to face each other, symbolizing the bond miners share
underground. The monument is curved, to depict how the mountains now cradle the men who died. It faces south, so the sun will always warm the miners' faces on the wall. She said the memorial's colors reflect those found in the mountains.
"I wanted the monument to have a sense of place," Templeton said. "It belongs here like we belong here."
Desert Edge Christian Church Pastor Carl Sitterud called Templeton's piece a "work of love" and asked everyone at the memorial unveiling to continue praying for the victims' families as they still struggle in a time of need.
Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon said there has been a lot of healing in the past year and that the memorial will be a "beautiful memory" of those lost. Gordon and Huntington City Councilwoman Julie Jones were rocks for many family members a year ago during their darkest hours.
Jones said she wants the new park and its monument to be a place of peace and solace.
The word "heroes" was used repeatedly to describe the nine miners who were killed, six more who were injured and others who risked their lives during the rescue effort. There was a standing ovation as several men stood to be recognized for taking part in that effort.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quoted scripture about the worth of souls in reference to the miners. "Truly, these souls are all great in the sight of God," Elder Rasband said.
The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, which encompasses the state of Utah, applied a broader use of the "heroes" designation.
"I would extend that to all miners, who every day go into the earth to make our lives better," Bishop Wester said. "They truly are heroes."
Bishop Wester also spoke in Spanish, ending with the words, "May they rest in peace."
For families left behind, peace has at times been hard fought.
"It's been a rough and painful year," said Kristin Kimber, ex-wife of Brandon Kimber.
"What a beautiful way to honor these men," she said. She talked about how the lost miners still live within their loved ones. "They have never left us we just can't see them anymore."
Wendy Black also spoke to a crowd, which filled two sets of bleachers and spilled into the nearby cemetery. She had high praise for Gov. Jon Hunstman Jr., whose family donated much of the money needed to build the park and its monument. She also thanked Huntsman for representing miners during meetings in Washington, D.C., over the past year.
"I will never forget what you have done," Black said, turning around to hug the governor.
Black said being a miner is an honorable job.
"Every day they risk their lives so that we may have light," she said, taking time to read the names of each of the nine miners. "They died trying to bring light into the world."
Huntsman complimented Huntington and the surrounding communities that lost miners in both collapses. He said he had never seen such strength and togetherness on display, let alone for the entire world to see.
"It's now time to celebrate the lives of these good men, these dads, these sons, these neighbors, these relatives," Huntsman said. "It's time to celebrate these good lives, because I believe that good lives never die they reside in our hearts and minds."Echoing the monument's name, Huntsman said about the miners, "There are heroes among us."