"You could feel the tension in the room," said Ashlee Stansfield of the Cleveland 1st Ward, Huntington Utah Stake, as she watched a sense of dread cover the faces of relatives of the six missing miners in the Crandall Canyon mine when they were informed that search efforts might not resume.
Sister Stansfield and a handful of the Young Women in her stake were among the few allowed to be near the families. She was among those invited to care for the children of the families during the daily briefings.
Six miners were trapped Aug. 6 following an early-morning collapse at the mine. Three rescuers were killed Aug. 16 when the mountain moved from a seismic bump, prompting mine officials to scale back rescue efforts. Holes drilled into the mine have revealed little information and officials have said that the next exploratory hole, the sixth, will be the last.
Emotions ran high when families learned Aug. 18 that rescue efforts might be curtailed. The news came one week after a communitywide fast and prayer meeting was held at the Huntington stake center. (Please see earlier reports in the Church News on Aug. 4 and 11.)
Church members in the Huntington, Utah, area have served in various capacities as they've watched tragic events unfold in their close-knit community.
"This is a mining community. Most everyone here has lost a relative or close friend through the years," said Don V. Gordon, second counselor in the Huntington Utah Stake presidency, who lost a grandfather in a mining accident. Such tragedy brings a community together, he said.
In a town composed of various faiths, the people of Huntington "put (their) differences aside and help each other," said Jed E. Jensen, first counselor in the Huntington stake presidency.
"We get along really well. Everyone works together, we do what we can and join hands with each other," he said.
Members have provided meals for rescuers and families of the victims.
President Jensen said members of his stake have made many visits to those directly affected, helped with fund-raising events and have continued to offer whatever service they can.
Sister Stansfield organized the Young Women of her stake to care for the children of the families in three daily shifts, offering added care during emotional moments such as that on Aug. 18 conference when federal officials first alerted families that their relatives might never be found.
"I was torn," said Sister Stansfield, who lost a brother-in-law to a mining accident in 2000. "My heart just aches for them. I know the families just want closure. I was feeling for (them), but I was also feeling for the company because I think they're doing the best they can. They don't want to jeopardize anybody else."
"Instead of watching this unfold on TV, finding some way to serve is perhaps the one thing that can help offer some healing," said President Jensen.
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