A true story that begs to be told:

In 1958, 174 miners were caught in a disastrous quake in North America's deepest coal mine. Springhill Nova Scotia's #2 mine was 14,000 feet deep. 99 men escaped; all the rest were thought to be dead, buried under miles of rock.

For a long week, volunteers dug into the rubble with machines, shovels and their hands. 8,000 feet deep on the seventh day, they broke through to 12 men who'd survived on hope and songs after their food, water, and light had long run out.

36 hours later, another six miners were found. They'd endured the long, agonizing death of their seventh man, horribly injured, all of 'em trapped in a tiny space nearly two miles down.

How has this been missed as a first-class drama?

It's all true - as is the surprising epilogue. In 1958, live TV broadcasting was primitive, and Springhill, NS was 'way off the network. But - CBC had just built a vast international transmitter site at Sackville only 50 miles away.

Canadian TV found they could hire video-quality phone cables to Sackville, and link to Toronto, NYC and everywhere. Springhill was the first North American disaster to go live on television.

Ed Sullivan's wife saw the rescue in Manhattan - she prompted Ed, and he invited the first bunch of rescuees for a weekend in New York and an appearance on the show.

Crazier still: the Governor of Georgia caught wind of the story. Desperate to promote the new tourist development at Jekyll Island, he invited all the Springhill survivors and families for a week's vacation at Jekyll, air fares and all paid by Georgia.

Whoops. Gov Marvin Griffin was a stout segregationist. Of course, he assumed that the Canadian miners were all white. Nope. Maurice Ruddick was a black man with a family. Eek.

Georgia created a "temporary resort" for the Ruddicks a bit away from the main hotel on Jekyll.

Now, are there enough elements for a movie in this true-life story? Oh yeah.

I have a new interest, because Jeannie, the dogs and I were at Springhill two weeks ago. Far from our Vancouver home, we had an underground tour of a smaller Springhill mine, and heard first-hand about the tragedy of 1958.

PS: read Melissa Fay Green's excellent book, perhaps the best-researched ever on the story: Last Man Out (Harcourt 2003).