WEIRTON, W.Va. (WTRF) — Through decades of hard work, steelworkers were the architects of Weirton’s identity.
They gave the city their labor, their energy, and tragically sometimes their lives.
A memorial today looked to the past to remember their dedication…and to the future to stop accidents before they happen.
Through the morning rain, those who were part of the mill’s past and present reflected on their loved ones and on safety.
Through poems and personal accounts, they spoke about the risks workers took all to provide for their families.
The union president says reminders of past tragedies contributed to a recent 20-year period with no fatalities.
“Every accident could be prevented. Sometimes people aren’t aware, they take things for granted, they’ve been doing it for years and years and years, then it takes one mistake.”Mark Glyptis, President, USW Local 2911
Speakers also touched on the heartbreak of losing a husband, a brother, a friend to steel work.
Haleigh Poch-Kowalski took the podium to honor her father Tim, who passed away from workplace injuries just three years ago.
Standing beside his boots and his hard hat, she affirmed that the community and the country need workers like him as much as they ever have.
“Union labor has built the American dream. The worker sacrifice has allowed us to achieve our dreams.”Haleigh Poch-Kowalski, Daughter of Tim Poch
As Taps and Amazing Grace played, those who paid their respects were left to think about how to move forward.
Even with modern methods and technologies, Glyptis says the danger remains for those who walk into the plant every day.
“I think the safety has greatly improved. But you’re never satisfied until you get to zero. That’s what the phrase is, journey to zero.”Mark Glyptis, President, USW Local 2911
The ceremony ended with a bell ringing for each and every one of these lives, and a prayer that the journey to zero will march forward.
A special acknowledgement was also made of the 19 workers who died in the 1972 Brown’s Island Explosion.
Many of those victims did not work for the mill, but were contractors from throughout the Ohio Valley.