Fred Moore, Ron Cairns and Wendy Richardson were among hundreds gathered at Kembla Heights Community Hall on Monday night when 96 candles were lit to remember the 96 men and boys killed in the Mt Kembla mining disaster.
The 96 Candle Ceremony is an annual event to mark one of the saddest days in Australian history.
Among those who spoke were Cunningham MP Sharon Bird and Wollongong MP Paul Scully.
Mr Cairns recalled how devastating the 1902 tragedy was on families in the area and how outside of war no single event has claimed more Australian lives.
The explosion occurred at 2.03pm on the same day an arbitration hearing into mine safety was being held in Wollongong Courthouse.
It was so powerful it felt 11 kilometres away and eyewitnesses reported seeing tongue of flame 12 metres long shooting out of No 1 shaft.
Buildings at the mine site were reduced to rubble.
Organised by members of Mt Kembla Mining Heritage the hour-long candle ceremony started at 6.30pm.
The Illawarra Welsh Choir sang and a lone piper from the Illawarra Pipe Band played added to the emotion before Mark Mathews read the names of all those who died in the disaster.
Rev Geoff Flynn from the Church on the Mall sounded a bell as each name was read and Phil Diamond performed master of ceremonies duties.
Mt Kembla Mining Heritage chairperson Elizabeth Roberts said the Dendrobium Community Enhancement Program funded the 96 Candles event.
And committee member Vivian Twyford said the search was on for a new committee to run the event going forward.