WEIRTON - Friends and families of some of the 117 steelworkers who lost their lives in the Weirton steel mill over the past century paused Thursday with mill and community leaders to remember their passing.
Some dabbed at tears, others closed their eyes tightly as the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard fired off a traditional salute followed by taps, then a lone bagpiper's rendition of "Amazing Grace."
"These men made the ultimate sacrifice when they went to work one day and didn't come home," USW Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis said during the ceremony held in front of the Weirton Steelworker Memorial opposite the Mill Administration Building.
COMMEMORATION — A somber Evelyn Bissett cradles her 3-year-old granddaughter Jamie, as the American Legion Post 10 Honor Guard played taps Thursday during a ceremony commemorating workers killed over the years while working in the Weirton mill. -- Linda Harris
Linda Cline, who's father, Rudy Bonnovich, a 54-year-old plater in the tin mill who was killed on June 5, 1982, was in attendance Thursday. Cline, an emergency tech with the mill's in-house fire department, had been scheduled to work a sixth day that week but decided instead to report off. Had she not, "I would have responded to my dad's accident."
After ticking off the grandchildren her father never got to know, Cline added, "I hope no more names will be added to this memorial."
Cline was in good company: Gabe Arlia and Mark Apesos, members of the Honor Guard and Weirton Steel retirees, said that over the years they'd worked with a handful of the men whose names are listed on the memorial.
Estelle Volosin shed a tear as she remembered her former fiance, Francis Ellek, who was killed in 1957. Evelyn Bissett looked somber, closing her eyes and clutching her 3-year-old granddaughter, Jamie, as she remembered her husband, George, who was died on the job in 1957 as well.
Brian James, plant manager at ArcelorMittal's Weirton plant, pointed out steel mills are a "very dangerous environment."
"Fortunately, it's been a long time since we've had a fatality here in Weirton," he said, noting that thus far this year ArcelorMittal has had eight workers - some with its mining operations, others in it steel plants - die on the job in the U.S. and abroad.
"It can happen in a split second," James said, adding that worker safety must continue to be a priority in the mill.
"Every minute of every day in the mill, you can never know what will happen," Glyptis said. "We have to look out for each other, put safety ahead of everything."
(Harris can be contacted at email@example.com)