The wife of Sago Mine disaster survivor Randal McCloy Jr. will never forget growing up in Taylor County, and as a Grafton High School graduate, she is thankful that her children will be able to attend the same county schools she did.Anna Green McCloy was among those honored Tuesday afternoon by The Education Alliance at the Charleston Marriott hotel. She was recognized as a 2006 Graduate of Distinction, The Education Alliance’s top honor.“We felt that she represented West Virginia with poise and dignity and helped present a positive image of West Virginia and what we stand for,” said Dr. Hazel Palmer, president and CEO of The Education Alliance.The Education Alliance is a nonprofit organization and statewide fund for public education. The Graduate of Distinction award, started in 1999, emphasizes public education’s impact on creating opportunities and role models for school children. Each year, two to three individuals are selected for the honor.“As a mother, I am grateful to The Education Alliance for its high student achievement,” McCloy said.Other recipients of the award this year are first lady Gayle Manchin and Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., author, scholar and native West Virginian. Gates was not present at the event, but his prepared speech was read.The three distinguished graduates attended West Virginia public schools and went on to earn respect and success.“We all share the belief that education is a lifelong process,” Manchin said. “Education makes those [life] choices possible.”McCloy dedicated her award to the families of the miners who were lost during the Sago disaster. She also offered admiration for the brave miners who continue to work in dangerous environments.
McCloy’s husband, Randal, and mother, Eleanor Green, accompanied her to the luncheon.“It’s a miracle to have Randy here with me today,” McCloy said. “I believed in Randy from the beginning.”She said that in her life, she has always tried to keep her head up during difficult times. She recounted how faith and the love and support of family and friends helped her get through the ups and downs of the past five months. She also spoke of Manchin’s compassion.“She is a very special friend,” McCloy said of the first lady.Manchin spent much of her acceptance speech talking about McCloy and their relationship. Manchin met McCloy in Morgantown and stayed by her side while Randal was in critical condition, the result of carbon monoxide poisoning suffered inside the Sago Mine.“I believe that Anna and I have both grown from the experience we have been able to share together,” Manchin said. “It has been a learning experience for me to be beside Anna. I have enjoyed getting to know Anna and her wonderful family.”
Now, McCloy is spending as much time as she can with Randal and their family. Through her experiences, she has also seen changes in herself.“I feel very different,” McCloy said. “I don’t take things for granted.”“She became the vision of a West Virginia woman,” Manchin said.To contact staff writer Jessica Legge, use e-mail or call 348-5100.