It wasn't a fancy homecoming, just some red balloons, handmade signs, a lot of hugs and his wife's homemade lasagna. But it was everything the only survivor of the Sago Mine accident wanted after a three-month recovery that has amazed doctors.
He is thin and still a bit unsteady on his feet, but 26-year-old Randal McCloy Jr. was strong enough Thursday to leave the rehabilitation hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where he spent two months in intensive therapy, recovering from a severe brain injury and regaining his physical strength.
The scene would have been hard to imagine Jan. 4, when a critically injured McCloy was carried out of the mine 41 hours after an explosion that left 12 fellow miners dead.
"I'd just like to thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers," he said softly at a news conference Thursday with his wife, Anna.
He paused, then added, "I believe that's it."
An hour later, when he arrived at his trailer here in Simpson, relatives shouted out greetings and children blew noisemakers.
Missy McGee, Anna McCloy's sister, said she knew her brother-in-law would enjoy the fuss.
"He used to be the quiet type, but since this has happened, he's been very, very verbal," said McGee.
"If he saw a crowd before, he would walk around it. But it's not the same now. It's good to see him this way," she said. "Before, he didn't think anybody liked him. He didn't think I liked him, and I'm his sister-in-law."
McCloy is considered a medical miracle because he survived exposure to carbon monoxide for so long. Doctors cannot fully explain why he lived and 12 others died. They also had expected him to spend about six months in therapy, but released him in half that time.
"It's still amazing, still astonishing," said Dr. Russell Biundo, medical director at HealthSouth MountainView Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. "It's basically almost like he was resurrected."