School was over and Abigail was playing on the floor with Timmy when it happened. The block tower fell over and so did Timmy. Abigail grasped the table leg as the small house shook. The water in the pan on the stove sloshed over and hissed as it hit the hot metal.
Abigail scooped Timmy of the floor and hurried to the door. She squeezed in between her mother and older sister Mary. High in the sky above the entrance of the coal mine was a large black cloud. It was coal dust, the same dust that coated everything in the small town.
“What’s happening?” Abigail asked.
Her mother shook her head. The shouts and cries of the men reached their ears. Children and women began to run towards the mine. An explosion like that was never a good thing. And so close to Christmas, it was a tragedy.
Abigail wrapped a blanket around Timmy and hurried after her mother and Mary. They pushed their way through the crowd. To Abigail’s relief she saw her father and brother, Johnny, standing by the office.
“Johnny, what happened?” Abigail asked as her mother flew into her father’s arms. “Is anyone hurt?”
“It was the gasses. Someone dropped a lantern. It all went up,” Johnny said staring glassy eyed at her.
Mary came over and propelled her brother to the far side of the large crowd. Abigail felt Mary tug on her arm but she was too shocked to move. She felt Timmy being lifted from her grasp. Her hands fell loosely to her side. Gas explosions were the worst.
A cry of grief rose from the crowd and the people parted as Abigail’s father stepped through. Abigail followed close behind him. On the ground by the entrance to the underground mine was the blackened body of a man. A strange smell came up out of the ground and Abigail wrinkled her nose. Flames crept along the wood of elevator. Four young children and a woman holding a baby hovered around the body. He wasn’t moving and Abigail turned her head. She had witnessed the destruction of an explosion in the mine last year. Only this time she knew the man very well. It was Mr. Walsh.
Abigail’s her heart sank. Mrs. Walsh had just had another baby and her husband had been promoted which meant more money for the family. But now Mr. Walsh was gone and so was the money.
“Mama, can you do something?” Abigail asked softly.
“No, child, there is nothing I can do,” her mother replied. “Go find Mary and Johnny and take them home. Sara should be back from school by now.”
Abigail nodded. She trudged slowly away from the crowd. What would Mrs. Walsh do now? Johnny was leaning against a coal cart, his dust covered cheeks streaked from the tears falling down his face.
“He made me go up before him,” Johnny whimpered. “It should have been me.”
“No, Johnny. We need you,” Abigail said. “Come, let’s go home.”
Mary hugged Timmy to her and turned from the destruction. Abigail grasped Johnny’s hand and led him towards the small hovel they called home.