After Mom and Aunt Ang passed away, my brother and I arranged a memorial in their small hometown of Lansford, nestled in the mountains in eastern Pennsylvania, the heart of anthracite coal-mining country.
I was making the trip from Albuquerque, NM, so I decided to stay a couple of weeks and further research Mom and Ang’s hometown and their old haunts (and those of many ancestors), the history surrounding coal mining, and to travel and visit other coal mining towns in the area.
In Lansford, you will find the No. 9 Mine and Museum. You could spend hours in this museum and not see everything. I spent a dozen hours there over the course of several days and took hundreds of pictures both in the museum and in the mine.
Years ago, you would have found both my great-grandfather, James Day, and my grandfather, Richard Holmes, in Old No. 9. James had an impressive 40+ years in the mine. Grandfather Richard worked there until severely injured and deafened in an explosion.
Brother Phil, sister-in-law Kerry, and I met our tour guide and proceeded into the mine. We chugga-chugged and squealed into the mine, the small lokie protesting every inch of our progress.
Strings of small lights along the ceiling led the way. The further we went, the more the temperature dropped. Deep into the mine, we disembarked, listening to our tour guide tell us stories and lore, imparting interesting facts about No. 9 and mining in general.
I pulled out my digital camera to snap a picture of the elevator shaft. Pointing the camera toward the shaft, click! The camera’s small display looked odd, like there was a cloud or smoke in the picture. I thought perhaps it was a trick of the low lighting or some sort of mist, wafted in from outside. We continued the tour. I thought no more about that odd, cloudy picture.
Until I saw a large view of that image on my laptop.
Back at my small-town motel, I downloaded all the photos from the day. I was scrolling through the pictures of the mine, and there it was – a face in that misty photo.
I freaked – slammed the lid of the laptop and shoved it away from me like it was a diseased spider.
I paced around the room, hyperventilating. I chain smoked, looking over each cigarette, furtive glances toward that laptop. I drank…looking over each bottle at the laptop…
Then an intriguing thought broke through my Welsh-Irish brain – what if it was James or Richard come to say hello?
I approached the laptop, opened it, studied the photo. Yes, it could be a face, it just might be James or Richard. A family resemblance? I could see it!
The picture no longer scares me, it comforts me.