CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A year later, the pain of the nation's deadliest coal mine explosion in decades remained fresh for the families of the 29 men killed at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine.
More than 120 fathers, mothers, siblings and children crowded a school gym and church, shedding tears Tuesday as they remembered and prayed for the victims killed when the powerful blast tore apart the Upper Big Branch mine April 5, 2010.
Church bells rang across the state at 3 p.m., the estimated time of the explosion. Massey Energy Co., owner of the mine, halted underground production in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.
"Ultimately, I'm one of those who believes that it never really does go away, the pain," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said during a somber memorial service for the families in Whitesville, eight miles from the mine. "In some ways, maybe it shouldn't because it is a form of love and obligation to those who are affected."
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the families the Obama administration will make mines safer and continue its civil and criminal investigations.
"These 29 brave men. The pain that they have suffered and what you have suffered reminded me of the work that has yet to be done," Solis said. "Safety should never be sacrificed and these deaths should not have been."