First Responders Bronze
Located next to the memorial's granite entrance sign is the First Responders Bronze. It is a tribute to the mine rescue teams, police, fire and EMS that responded to the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster and to all that serve in that capacity.
After the explosion, local and state police were on site to provide security and direct traffic. Paramedics, both local and from the surrounding region, responded to the scene of the accident and were on site until the last rescue teams left the mine. Multiple aeromedical services staged their helicopters at the Whitesville Elementary School football field in the case they were needed. The Whitesville Fire Department was utilized as a command center and temporary morgue in the hours directly after the disaster. State and private mine rescue teams from West Virginia and surrounding coal producing states rushed to Upper Big Branch to participate in the search, rescue and recovery efforts.
The piece was designed and created by Ross Straight from Buckhannon, WV. The First Responders Bronze was first sculpted from clay and wax. It was then cut into sections and sent to Richwood Castings in Huntington, WV for casting. The bronze sections were then returned to Mr. Straight's studio in Buckhannon for reassembly and finishing.
The scene depicted in the sculpture is that of first responders and mine rescuers in front of the entrance to the Upper Big Branch Mine. The focal point of the piece is a firefighter reaching out a three-dimensional hand to help those in need. The firefighter is flanked by mine rescuers, emergency medical technicians and police. The outline of the sculpture was made to look like the body of a fish, a symbol of the Christian faith. The bible mentions a team of hope and when disasters occur, such as the one at Upper Big Branch, first responders are teams of hope for victims trapped inside.
Below the sculpture is a bronze dedication plaque with the insignias of each service represented in the tribute. It reads, "This sculpture is dedicated in appreciation of the courageous first responders and mine rescue teams that immediately came to the aid of their fellow man following an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in nearby Montcoal on April 5th, 2010."