#8: The Chilean Miners
“I have been with God and I’ve been with the devil. I fought between the two. I seized the hand of God; it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there.”—Mario Sepulveda
The note came from the darkness on a small piece of white paper with bold red letters. The handwriting was neat and the paper was remarkably well kept, considering it came from more than 2,000 feet underground. It was written by a man who had been trapped there for more than two weeks, subsisting every two days on one biscuit, tiny spoonfuls of tuna, and a few sips of milk.
For the first 17 days they were trapped, the miners were feared dead. But there it was, the note. It came up to the surface of the earth through a borehole the size of a grapefruit, letting rescuers—and the world—know they were alive. “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33.” Translation: “We are all right in the refuge, the 33 of us.”
The 33 miners were trapped on August 5 after a cave-in of a copper mine in a Chilean desert. The miners shared food and devised a form of democracy. They jogged, played cards, and wrote letters to loved ones. They even watched a soccer match on a small projector that was fed to their “safety chamber” via fiber-optic cable.
For more than two months, they encouraged one another and kept order. “We knew that if society broke down,” miner Mario Sepulveda told the media, “we would all be doomed.”
Trapped in a remote corner of the globe, their will to survive penetrated the cynicism of modern life.
We cared about the Chilean miners because they represented the best of humanity—cooperation for the common good, hopefulness in the face of the most desperate circumstances. Even under such inhumane conditions, their duty, selflessness, and composure reminded us that when life is at its worst, we can still be at our best.
The world rejoiced as the miners were finally rescued, one by one, on October 13, after 69 days underground.
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