Seeking to comfort the families of 29 workers who died in an Appalachia coal mine, President Barack Obama travels to West Virginia on Sunday to deliver a eulogy that voices concern for the lost miners and determination to ensure the safety of those in the mining industry.
Obama's speech for the public memorial to those miners lost at the Upper Big Branch mine near Beckley, W.Va., promised changes to an industry that remains a source of many jobs in once-thriving mine country and a needed source of energy.
"We cannot bring back the 29 men we lost. They are with the Lord now," Obama said in excerpts released early Sunday in North Carolina, where he and first lady Michelle Obama spent the weekend.
"Our task, here on Earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy. To do what must be done, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground. To treat our miners the way they treat each other — like family. For we are all family. We are Americans."
The afternoon memorial service also was to include remarks from West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and Vice President Joe Biden. Obama talked of the sacrifices miners make in their efforts to build a better life for their families.
"All the hard work. All the hardship. All the time spent underground. It was all for their families," Obama said. "For a car in the driveway. For a roof overhead. For a chance to give their kids opportunities they never knew; and enjoy retirement with their wives. It was all in the hopes of something better.
"These miners lived — as they died — in pursuit of the American dream."
In his remarks, Obama said letters had poured into the White House after the April 5 disaster.
"Postmarked from different places, they often begin the same way: 'I am proud to be from a family of miners,' 'I am the son of a coal miner,' 'I am proud to be a coal miner's daughter,'" Obama said.
"They ask me to keep our miners in my thoughts. Never forget, they say, miners keep America's lights on. Then, they make a simple plea: don't let this happen again."
Lawmakers are moving forward with a review of industry safeguards. Obama has said safety improvements are needed.
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