A Hero's Tragedy

pennsylvania mine hero bob long CBS

One year ago, nine Pennsylvania miners took a ride to freedom that captured the world's imagination.

But after they reached those rescue lights, darkness fell on one of the men made famous by the miners'miracle.

Bob Long, a husband and father, was the surveyor who pinpointed the spot where holes were drilled to provide oxygen to the trapped miners. For his stroke of genius, Long was dubbed "the man behind the miracle."

"The moment when they brought those miners out ... The only thing I can compare it to is when my kids were born," Long said last July.

Out of hundreds of rescuers, Long was the only one to get a piece of a lucrative TV movie deal, and his cut was just as big as the offers to the miners, CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports. That created some bad blood between Long and the men he helped save.

"There were people who had threatened him and felt that he was undeserving," said Wally Long, Bob Long's father.

People in Somerset, the small town near the mine, took sides. The rescue had become a burden and last month, Bob Long committed suicide.

History has shown how heroes can ride high after their stunning achievements, only to sink to disturbing lows once the limelight is gone. It happened to Robert O'Donnel, the firefighter who rescued Baby Jessica from a well in Texas. He later took his own life.

"It really upset him much more than any of us realized," Wally Long told Jim Acosta. "All of the sudden, he's kind of a celebrity. That's not what he deemed himself."

As a police chaplain, Wally Long has seen the high burnout and suicide rate in his own line of work. He wonders: did it happen to his son?

"That's the hardest part. There's no answer, there's no why," he said.

Bob Long's death isn't talked about at the site of the rescue, which is now a tourist attraction - complete with the yellow capsule that carried the miners out, Acosta notes.

In mourning, Wally Long takes pride in that major role his son played in the miners' miracle.

"God put him here for a reason, and maybe it was to save those nine lives," he said.

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

On Twitter

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App