Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Happy Ending

I get nervous in caves, where I can’t see natural light in any direction.  I simply can’t imagine the terror I would experience if I were to be trapped half a mile underground as the 33 miners at Chile’s San Jose copper-gold mine were.  
I’ve just finished “Cry the Beloved Country”, which alludes to the horrible conditions for those working in the gold mines of South Africa.  For generations men have gone into West Virginia’s coal mines and ended up still poor with black lung disease.  Mining all over the world has always been a risky business which made those on top of the ground wealthy and broke the backs of those underneath.

Most times when we read news about a mine accident, we know in our heart of hearts that the miners are probably doomed, despite the valiant efforts to rescue them.  We feel the pain of the friends and relatives who continue to hope until that hope is extinguished.
But this time it was different.  From early on there was a 4”shaft to the trapped men, none of whom had suffered injury in the mine’s collapse.  Plan B was adopted as the rescue strategy with the intention of widening the shaft to 28” so a capsule could raise the men one at a time out of their home deep in the earth.  It was actually US companies who contributed greatly to the technology and management of the rescue operation.  But there was instant support from around the world as the drilling continued and the days ticked off.
Just yesterday the last miner rode up to the surface, completing the 69-day saga.  They described their re-entry into the world above ground as somewhat of a rebirth.
I had so many questions about how the men existed for those harrowing 2 months.  I wondered who organized them, whether they enforced a daily schedule, how they handled disagreements, how they maintained some semblance of physical conditioning,  whether and how they invoked religion, how they dealt with sexual urges, how they kept their minds in tact, and how they decided the order of their ultimate rescue.  
I’m sure there will be books and probably a movie telling the story, answering all my questions and more.  It is the success story that will keep hope alive for loved ones when the next mine shaft collapses.  Remember those 33 Chilean miners and how they all got out alive!


Blogger Steve Reed said...

This was a truly miraculous story. I just heard about some miners in China who don't appear as fortunate. Mining is one of those jobs I just don't think I would ever do -- along with working in a submarine. No way!

6:28 AM  

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