Today they brought all they have - photographs and grief - to Capitol Hill.
"I would like to know where my son is in that hole so I can leave a marker on the mountain," said Sheila Phillips, mother of miner Brandon Phillips.
Back in Huntington, there's fear there will be more casualties: people's jobs. About 170 miners have been laid off in the area due to safety concerns in several mines, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.
Among them, Trevor Wade Lindt.
"When the mines are doing well, everyone is doing well," he said. "When the mines start shutting down a bit or have reductions in workforce, then not everybody does very well."
A coal miner for a dozen years, Lindt isn't sure what he'll do now. He's been told the layoffs are temporary, but that $25-an-hour job supported his wife and five kids.
"Hopefully we'll be able to return back to regular work shortly and, life goes on," he said.
Does he believe that?
"Ahh, I really have no choice but to believe it," he said.
A stop by the local diner reveals the "lunch rush" simply doesn't exist anymore.
"Coal miners are a kind of special breed," said diner owner Bill Van Solen. "They spend money like crazy when they're working. Then when they're laid off, they just about have to sell everything again. It goes over and over again."
And the gossip at the salon has given way to more serious topics.
"It's gonna effect everything from grocery stores to hair salons to clothing stores - I mean, because you're not going to spend money," said Glenda Hansen, a nail salon owner.
CBS News spoke with a number of different people for this story and one of the things people kept saying - off camera - is this kid of fear. People are saying, "I'm reluctant to talk to you on camera; I'm reluctant to be critical of the mine or the mine owners, because, frankly, I'm afraid I could lose my job."
Today those with nothing more to lose told lawmakers this tragedy shouldn't have happened.
"I have never known my husband to be afraid to go to work, but the last part of his life he was," Wendy Black said at the Capitol Hill hearing.
Her husband, Dale, was one of the rescuers killed. His sister remembers how she got the news about Dale.
"I don't know if I can talk about it," Gayle Black said.
Emotions are still raw in Huntington.
The people left behind are torn, by the pain of lost lives - and the fear of lost livelihood.