Sarah was rolling crust for her apple pie when she heard the big horn at the mine sound. She knew something was terribly wrong and Will was in the mine. By the time she got to the front door the miners and wives who lived along the small creek were running toward the mine. Sarah turned to Michael and said, "Take care of your sisters; I am going to the mine." He protested but did as he was told. Sarah grabbed her coat and ran down the muddy road.
As the mine came into sight she could see the dark dust cloud still hanging over the entrance. A large gathering of men were already working to make their way into the dark mine. "Are the men okay? she asked a man whose face was darkened by coal dust. "Don't know mam. We will have to wait for the dust to clear before we can go in."
Michael's father had told him not long ago, "If anything happens you need to be a man." He knew he must be strong for his younger sisters. The three sat and waited for news of their father's fate.
In the darkness each of the men covered their mouth to avoid breathing the coal dust. They did not fear the dark, only what may be in the unseen emptiness-gas seeping from the coal robbing them of the air they needed to breath. After a few hours some began to lose hope. No sounds of anyone coming for them could be heard.
"Figured I die like this. I don't worry about me, it's the kids and wife I worry about. The company will put them out of the house within the week." A $50 death benefit and eviction from their house, they all had seen it before.
Will could sense the men losing hope and needing something to hang onto. He remembers inside his coat pocket was one of the books he carried with him each day. In the dark his finger began to see the words as he began to read. "And there were shepherds living in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'" No one questioned how he knew the words, only that they brought comfort with them.
Wenna remembered the hidden door in the Chiffarobe and the guardian angel her father said lived there. Carefully she felt her way to the chiffarobe and found the mirrored door. Standing on the tips of her toes she reached deep into the opening. She stopped as her finger found what she was looking for, her guardian angel. It was a small porcelain figurine that her parents had gotten her for Christmas. She knew by the feel of the small figure it was an angel. She could feel the wings.
Wenna returned to where her brother and sister were sitting and told them of her guardian angel. The three children placed their hands around the angel and began a pray for their father and the men with him.
In the dark the men sat silent as Will finished the story. The only sound was the occasional cough from the coal dust they had breathed in, along with the dripping water echoing on the dark walls.
The passing of time had no meaning when waiting to die. The minute and hours were unseen and empty with no reference to go by. The miners awaited their fate in the dark on Christmas Day.
Old Dan was the first to hear something, "Did you hear that? I thought I heard a voice?"
Someone said, "You're hearing a ghost."
"No, wait I hear something too," said Will.
In the direction of the slope a man's voice could be heard. "Can any one hear me?" someone shouted in the distance.
The men starting yelling and calling to the unseen voice.
Will shouted, "Be quiet for a second." He felt his way in the dark to the corner of the wrecked coal car and started to pound on the metal with a hammer. They heard him. Almost immediately the word traveled up the slope, "There is someone still alive!"
The men could hear the metal cars being pulled from the tangled wreck and voices coming closer. Soon a miner light shown through an opening and said, "You guys okay?" A joy filled the men as never before, they knew they were going home.
It took a couple more hours before the men returned to the surface. The men's families and friends that had been waiting hours in the mud and cold were all there that Christmas morning.
Will saw Sarah standing near the slope house smiling as a flood of tears ran down her face. Each tear left a path in the coal dust that had settled on her face. He held her tight in his arms and they felt no cold, only the warmth of each other. "Let's go home," Will said as he looked down at Sarah's tear-stricken face.
It was a Christmas unlike any other in the small valley of West Virginia. For many it was a miracle the men came out alive. For Wenna it was a prayer answered by her small guardian angel. Never again in the history of the Sandy Creek did anyone come to harm in the mine.
They would long remember that Christmas and the gift the valley received. Will and his family went on to many more Christmases in that small house filled with love. Michael went to college over the mountain and worked to make mining safer for the men who go underground. Mattie became a teacher like her mother and taught school to miner's children in the small valley.
Will and Sarah lived many years in the valley. They saved their money and eventually bought their own little home near the top of the valley in the bright clear air of the mountains.
And Wenna, she learned to read the words of touch and went on to teach others the gifts in the unseen words. She married and had children of her own. In her parlor near the window stood the old chiffarobe with the marred mirror. Behind the mirror was the small guardian angel that some still believe saved the men in the dark that Christmas Day long ago.
May the joy of Christmas be with you and your family as I look Thru the Lens.