Sunshine Miners Memorial honors the 91 lives lost in Sunshine Mine tragedy

SILVER VALLEY, Idaho. — One of the worst mining tragedies in U.S. history happened 50-years-ago in Kellogg, Idaho. It’s a distant memory, but the legacy is still alive. It took the lives of 91 miners in the Sunshine Mine, and hundreds gathered at the Memorial site on Monday to pay tribute to those lives lost and honor the families of those impacted.

Hundreds gathered at the Sunshine Miners’ Memorial site. Between musical performances, a reading of the names and commentary given by the family members who were impacted, it made for a solemn, but special, day.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 50-years. All I can say is that the good lord didn’t want me on that day,” expressed Roger Findley.

Findley was the last man to make it to safety on May 2nd, 1972.

“I think about it every day but life goes on, you know?” Roger added.

He was one of the lucky ones. His brother was not.

“He was 30 when he passed on and we used to go hunting and fishing and everything and those are the memories that I have of him,” Roger remembered.

“50-years ago today I was 4-years-old. I used to get up with my Dad and help him make lunch. He’d prop me up on the counter,” said Tammy Wasson.

She is Rogers’s niece, and she lost her father on that tragic day.

“I remember his black lunch box. It was the kind you put the thermos in,  then he tucked me in bed with my mom,” Tammy recounted.

That was the last time she ever saw her Dad.

“It’s not fair. It’s not fair my dad wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle. He didn’t get to meet his grandchildren,” Tammy told us.

She says it never gets easier, but these families find solace in knowing the deaths of their loved ones didn’t happen in vain.

“Due to the enormous improvements in safety standards, mining is no longer among the most dangerous career choices,” Peter Cheesbrough, CEO of Sunshine Mining & Refining, announced.

The things that were learned in that fire have likely saved many lives in the mining industry since that day.

“It wasn’t a total loss. Because mining is a lot safer today than it was in the 70s,” Roger told us.

Idaho Governor Brad Little made an appearance, and shared a statement with the audience, saying in part, ” There’s a lot to look forward to in our state. Today it’s all about remembering the families left behind and how Idaho was changed over.”

The community and family members are going to make sure this legacy lives on by making continual upgrades to the memorial in the months and years ahead.

The Idaho State Legislature and House of Representatives doubled down on this, announcing that May 2 of every year from 2022 forward will be known in Idaho as “Miners’ Memorial Day.”

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