We gather today to remember the 29 brave souls who were lost at Upper Big Branch Mine, pay tribute to their families and dedicate this beautiful memorial for future generations as a testament to our shared commitment that no family should endure a preventable tragedy ever again.
An American author once said: "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
These 29 brave, patriotic men lived life to the fullest. These men were proud fathers, honest neighbors, strong brothers and sweet sons.
I learned about the miners as I sat with their families during the hours and days after the April 5, 2010 explosion. During this time, I listened to many wives and children as they courageously shared treasured memories.
We prayed together. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance, held each other and cried together.
Those families and I stayed together, at midnight, at dawn, through moments of hope and despair, on pins and needles in the early days and in shared grief when the full scope of the devastation hit us as the rescuers didn't find any more survivors.
Our entire nation grieved with their families for their tremendous loss, and I join my fellow West Virginians today, as we dedicate this impressive memorial, to honor their courage, sacrifice and the extraordinary strength of their families.
This striking memorial symbolizes strength: strength of those brave men, the strength of their families and the unwavering strength of this community.
This memorial stands as a reminder: a reminder of what we lost, the love we shared for our fallen brothers, as a reminder that life is often too short and as a reminder that we must always put safety first.
This memorial stands for all of us -- to help heal, to reflect and to never forget.
West Virginia has a rich coal heritage and our coal miners are the backbone of this country, providing the power for our lights, the steel and machinery that built our country into the greatest industrial power in the world, the military that keeps us safe and free, the energy for homes and businesses all over this country.
Indeed, West Virginia miners are the salt of the earth -- patriotic, God-fearing, family-oriented and proud of their hard work.
And, this memorial truly captures who we are.
In closing, the health and safety of our miners will always be our top priority, and the families of the miners we have lost will always remain in our hearts.
The miners of West Virginia and their families are the heart and soul of West Virginia and an inspiration for me. God bless them, God bless West Virginia and God continue to bless America.