Skip to Content

New monument honor lives lost in the Orient Mine explosion

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00
West Frankfort Monument

WEST FRANKFORT (WSIL) -- A new monument dedicated to the 119 men who lost their lives in a mine explosion nearly 70 years ago was unveiled.

The event event dedicated to the unveiling took place Saturday morning at Coal Miner's Memorial Park in West Frankfort.

The monument remembers those who passed away in an explosion on December 21st, 1951; that explosion happened during the last shift of the Orient Number 2 Mine before the Christmas holiday.

The granite monument has a photo of the Orient Mine etched into it, along with the names of all the miners who died.

Speakers at Saturday's event included State Senator Dale Fowler and West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan. Steve Sawalich, who helped to move the project along, says the explosion impacted the whole town.

"It's what they call Black Friday. Everybody threw their Christmas trees out in their yards and, the streets, there were no decorations it just was. It would be hard to fathom what that's like. Having worked in the mines, it would be hard to believe what these men went through," says Sawalich.

The granite memorial cost $40,000 - all of which was collected through donations.

The unveiling was supposed to be at the Old King Coal Festival in early May, but the festival was canceled due to COVID-19.

Eric Jamnik

Skip to content