The dramatic rescue of nine men trapped in the Quecreek Mine has increased interest in efforts to have a postage stamp issued in honor of coal miners.

For 16 years, John Vengien has been writing letters and gathering hundreds of signatures in support of the stamp. But for years, he was told that coal miners lack a key requirement.

"They keep telling me it's not 'of national interest,"' Vengien said. "Well, when I saw those nine guys come out of the (Quecreek) mine, I had tears rolling out of my eyes, and I know I wasn't the only one."

Vengien, 84, a former coal miner, was recently notified along with other supporters that the coal miner stamp is under consideration for possible issuance in 2005.

A Postal Service spokesman said Friday that decision was made before the mine accident, but he said the publicity surrounding the rescue could only help chances for approval by the service's Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee.

A subcommittee will decide whether the stamp would help create a "balanced and diverse program" of stamps being designed for 2005. The proposal would then be voted on by the entire panel and the selection announced in fall 2004.

"I think this is a turning point," Vengien said. "I don't see how the government can say no to a coal miner stamp now, because that mine rescue had the whole country interested. This was history being made, and people were interested all over the United States and around the world," Vengien said.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has asked a congressional committee to take action on a resolution expressing support for the stamp.