Farmers Happy to Let Rescue Workers Destroy Field

Their home has been swamped by rescue workers, volunteers and neighbors. The field at the edge of their farm has been turned into ruts of mud and broken stone. And Lori and Bill Arnold couldn't be happier. 

"You smiled so much it hurt," Lori Arnold said on Sunday, after agonizing days of waiting and working to help the rescue effort paid off and nine cold, tired miners breathed fresh air again. 

Their dairy farm — 140 acres and 80 milking cows — was also the site of the entrance to the Quecreek Mine. Within hours of Wednesday's accident, the farm was transformed into a massive work site, where generators hummed all night and neighbors lined up to help. 

In this rural part of Pennsylvania, people either farm or mine, Bill Arnold said. And they're far from strangers, he said, describing walking down the hill the first night as the crisis of the trapped miners began to unfold. 

"I walked into kids I grew up with. Their husbands and brothers were down there. Their sons," he said. "The last guy out of the hole I rode the school bus with." 

That first night, Lori Arnold made two calls about 3 a.m. By the next morning, they were flooded with food, she said. "One person made 30 meatloafs." 

Not everything went so smoothly. Some fences got knocked down. Her husband was a bit worried that the milk cows might cause some trouble. 

"We don't need to get trampled to death by a herd of cattle stampeding," he said. But his worries passed. 

Everyone prayed, and everyone stayed positive, Lori Arnold said. 

"What I will remember is everyone you passed, they were always smiling. ... That's what I'll remember — the smiles." 

Her husband nodded. "You make good things happen," said Bill Arnold. "You just don't take no for an answer." 

Now, like everyone else, they're taking a few deep breaths. 

"My house is a mess. I've had 15 people in there taking showers," Lori Arnold said, and smiled. But someone needed to use the phone? Go right ahead. 

As for the state mining officials who oversaw the rescue, their to-do list includes a state-federal investigation into the causes of the accident and one whopping big cleanup, said Jay Scott Roberts, deputy secretary of mineral resources at the state Department of Environmental Protection. 

"We have to give Mr. Arnold his farm back," Roberts said, stepping carefully across a shin-deep puddle of mud.