Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Well, every once in awhile we get a feel good story develop before our eyes, and how tremendous this one is.

As pretty much everyone knows, the Chilean miners are all out, safe, and in good spirits. And it happened before the eyes of the world. In a period of less then 24 hours, all of them emerged out of that impossibly small hole in the earth, 33 men who'd spent nearly seventy days deep below. And their actions, and the actions of the rescue teams working to reach them all this time, demonstrates the very best of the human spirit.

The fact that they all survived those first days, when no one knew if they were alive, demonstrated their strength and resiliance. Any search and rescue expert will tell you that if you panic in a tough situation, you're going to die. Simple fact. Most people, in that dark place, in that situation, would have panicked. These guys didn't. They kept calm, and organized, and once the world above knew they were alive, they never lost their sense of focus and purpose. Talk about grace under pressure? These guys defined it.

It goes without saying that the world was pulling for them to be rescued. Something about this captured our attention, our imagination, and our hope. And so, in one of the remote, inhospitable corners of the world, in a landscape that reminded one of the moon, our attention was turned in the last couple of days to the last hours of the rescue operation.

On Tuesday evening, the first of the rescuers descended through that impossibly small capsule to the miners below. Imagine that first moment for these guys, the first physical contact in two months with someone outside their immediate circle. And then the ascent began, broadcast live on television, around the world. I was watching, and watched into the night, transfixed by the footage. One by one, these men emerged, hugging their loved ones, hugging the rescue crew above, hugging the President of Chile. And each of them looked good. None of them appeared shaken up, unsteady. All of them were, in short, celebrating being alive. And as the hours went on, and each emerged to the surface, people around the world celebrated with them. It's a shared experience that I think we'll long remember.

One of the many lingering images that I think will stay with me is actually the last of the rescue team members. The first to descend of the six who went in was also the last to leave. After he saw the second to last ascent begin in that chamber, he was, for the first time, the only person down there. I'd say imagine the loneliness that might trigger, though he had the team above speaking to him the whole time, no doubt. So he wouldn't be that lonely.

It's perhaps strange to say so, but it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Their resiliance, their spirit, and their strength shone through, and the whole thing was done smoothly. It went off without a hitch, well ahead of schedule. It's also changed, for the better, our world view of Chile. Our image of Pinochet is gone, eclipsed by this extraordinary story of a nation going all out to save 33 men.

The world has changed, for them, and for us. They went down as anonymous miners, and came up to the full attention of humanity. In a world where we so often pay more attention to celebrity gossip, political scandals, or griping about the cost of a tank of gasoline, this experience has shown us what really matters. The news seems to show us at our worst all too often. The miners and the rescuers showed us humanity at its best.

You can't help but love them for that. And to feel, even for awhile, like we're all Chileans, even by proxy.


  1. Such a beautiful piece of writing...and then that cartoon at the end....

    Just couldn't resist, could you?

  2. I watched a few of the rescues live. It was incredible, wasn't it?

  3. We actually had a class last night during the final ascent by the last miners. A television was brought in, and each time one of them came up, the lecture stopped, the volume went up, and we just sat back and watched.

    Amazing thing!

    And of course I couldn't resist adding in the toon!

  4. I can't imagine being in that capsule for a half hour! All I can think about is the claustrophobia. Kind of a stupid concern compared to all the fear and hardships they endured.


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