Sunday, October 17, 2010


(This post has nothing to do with living in Korea.)

Over the past week I’ve found myself surprisingly touched emotionally by the rescue of the trapped Chilean mine workers. Before last Tuesday, I’d read about the situation in passing, recognized unconsciously that something was going on, but never really given it a second thought. To be honest, most of the news I encounter has to do with death, destruction, and negativity (train crashes, bomb threats, hurricanes, land slides, and toxic sludge), so I suppose I just filed the Chilean mine story in with all the other disaster stories I’m exposed to daily. It’s not like I’d never read about a mine disaster story before. Mine collapses, rescue attempts take place, and more often than not, the trapped miners end up not getting rescued. Maybe a couple days worth of follow-up articles on the terribly poor conditions mine workers have to endure around the world. Return to news as normal.

It was not until last week, when I’d heard that the first miners had been freed from their underground entrapment that I really started to look any further into the situation at all. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Chilean mine situation, because as you’ve just read, I was only merely aware that such a Chilean mine situation existed until maybe six days ago. But for the past week, I’ve been doing my research, looking retrospectively into the entire situation, and I just can’t get over the incredible strength and ingenuity of the human spirit on so many levels.

Let’s review:

On August 5, a section of a mine shaft in the San Jose Copper-Gold Mine collapsed, trapping 33 miners about 2,257 feet below ground. Some of the miners were there completely by chance. One was on the eve of his retirement, another few were driving a truck on their way out of the mine when the shaft collapsed merely a few feet in front of them. Somehow, no one died on that first day and the 33 of them managed to convene in a 165 square foot shelter at the base of the mine. They were then able to survive for 17 days on nothing but a few cans of tuna, eating about a bottle cap sized portion a day each, before finding a way to attach a message to a drill probe piercing their shelter and send a message over 2000 feet up to the surface, where, the people who had not yet given up on rescuing them, found it.

I’ve had my doubts about humanity, but everything about the survival and rescue of these 33 men has culminated to renew my faith in human kind...

How amazing that, despite the frequency of mining disasters in the world, governments vowed together to get these particular 33 men out.

How amazing that rescue workers on the surface were able to mathematically pinpoint the exact location in which the 33 miners were trapped and send a probe into their shelter.

How amazing that humans have created a tool that can drill a hole over 2000 feet straight into the ground.

How amazing that experts from all different fields collaborated to help them survive physically, emotionally, and psychologically in their underground camp.

How amazing that the 33 men all brought together in this disaster found a way to maintain civility throughout the whole ordeal without regressing to human savagery (a la Lord of the Flies).

How amazing that these men somehow retained their personalities and livelihood throughout the 69 day ordeal. The second miner to come out passed out souvenir rocks to the crowd greeting him at the top… How amazing that he could maintain a sense of humor after 69 days living in such conditions!

And how incredibly amazing that not one of the 33 men trapped in the mine died.

I’ve heard people calling this a miracle, attributing their phenomenal rescue to the will of some higher power. As a humanist, however, I think their rescue is the perfect example of what human kind working together can accomplish. The determination, strength, and ingenuity of every person involved in the Chilean mine rescue is just so inspirational, and reifies my beliefs in the capability and goodness of the human race. I’ve never been more confident that the human spirit is alive and well, and I’ve never been more in awe of what humans together can accomplish.

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