The McCloy Miracle

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When doctors released Sago miner Randal McCloy on March 30, a news conference was held at the Waterfront Radisson, here in Morgantown. Satellite trucks lined up next to the Monongahela River behind the hotel, and media came from near and far to cover the story. I wanted to be there, so I went and taped the conference using my iPod.

Other than seeing the McCloys, and hear what they personally had to say, I’m not sure what I expected to get from the experience. Perhaps it was just the culmination of more than three months’ efforts, in following what has become one of the biggest news stories of 2006. Perhaps it was because of my own coal mining connection, or because I know close friends of the McCloys, and have kept in contact with them, so as to learn how McCloy was doing, after he was rescued.

It could be because from the time he entered Ruby Memorial Hospital on January 4, I had to walk through the hospital every day for a month and deliberately not search out Anny McCloy – and as a journalist, that’s pretty hard to do, when you know there’s a potential news story waiting, right there, behind the next door. But I didn’t, out of respect for their privacy, and because they surely had been inundated by the press, and other people who came to visit.

So attending this press conference was a way for me to hear the final outcome of the story – though in many ways, for McCloy and his family at least, it’s just the beginning. And the room was packed. I overheard hotel staff saying they hadn’t expected so many media folks to come out for it. I managed to wedge myself into what seemed like the last remaining spot there, just under the WVU news camera located behind me, where, if I wasn’t careful, I could move my head just a few inches to either side and block other cameras.

For the next several minutes, I listened along with the rest of the room, as McCloy’s doctors and Governor Joe Manchin discussed his care and prognosis. The “Miracle Team,” who treated McCloy is composed of Drs. Julian Bailes, Russell Biundo and Larry Roberts and their collective staff. The doctors spoke about McCloy’s condition at great length, and what they all said can be heard at the Podcast which is found on this web site. What was interesting to me was that, in spite of their combined medical knowledge and skills, they don’t know how it was that, first of all, McCloy even survived, and second, how his condition after such an injury could have improved so much in such a relatively short time. They admitted this, and speculated on the possible reasons behind it, but in the end, they said they don’t really know.

McCloy’s own comments were very brief – just a quick but sincere thank you, and his wife Anna elaborated on that word of thanks with expressions of appreciation to everyone who offered
support to their families. Ever the gracious and compassionate woman she has proven herself to be since the world first learned about her, Anna McCloy then caused the room to take a collective pause with her next words.

“However, there are 12 families who are in our thoughts and prayers today and every day. They families of Randy’s coworkers and friends are celebrating with us today just as we continue to mourn with them. Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers.”

This mention – one of many throughout the news conference – of faith, made me go up to Gov. Manchin after the event and tell him what I have been thinking for the last three months: I am happy to know that West Virginia has as its governor someone who not only realizes the importance of faith, but isn’t afraid to say so, out loud, to the world. He said he really believes McCloy’s survival is a miracle, and that we as West Virginians aren’t afraid to stand up for our deep faith.

“That might sound corny in other states, but not in West Virginia,” Gov. Manchin added.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!


Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Categories: Sago Sadness


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