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On August 5, 2010, employees of Minera San Esteban Primera woke up, stretched out, bathed, ate breakfast, and walked around their assuredly modest homes. They said their casual goodbyes to family as they headed off to yet another dark day at work deep in the San Jose copper mine in northern Chile. Little did they know it would be the last time for nearly two months they would see the light of day. These same blessings of life they most likely took for granted earlier that day – to be able to stretch out, to bathe, to eat, and to walk around in the comfort of their own homes – would be taken from them unexpectedly later that same day.
Some time around the miners’ lunch time on August 5, 2010, the upper galleries of the private copper mine collapsed trapping the miners. Many on the outside feared the worst. After all, when the collapse occurred the miners should have been in or near the hazard zone on their way out for their lunch break.
Furthermore, with limited necessities such as food, water, and oxygen it was unknown whether the miners could have survived. “Liliana Ramirez, the wife of one of the oldest minders trapped, said she had faith all along that they were still alive and that she knew that her husband would never let his fellow workers perish” (Hughes, 2010).
Families of the missing miners, like Liliana Ramirez, started gathering and camping out at the mine’s surface since the collapse was first disclosed. Finally, 17 days after the collapse occurred, on August 22, 2010, the 33 trapped miners were discovered alive and doing considerably well.
Drilling probes discovered the refuge area located 2,297 feet underground (Hughes, 2010). At that time loved ones were able to send inspirational, encouraging, and heart-felt messages down through the probes to their trapped miners. The miners were able to inform those above how they were faring.
Upon hearing of her husband’s well being, Liliana Ramirez said “her message was that she wished him the strength to resist until they can be rescued, and that she loved him” (Hughes, 2010). Over the next two months, the miners trapped nearly half a mile below the surface endured trying circumstances. Food supply was extremely limited. Water was obtained from the mine’s storage tanks that survived the collapse. Sugars, water, and liquid nutrients were sent down to the trapped miners from the surface via tiny bore holes (Barrionuevo, 2011). Risks of additional cave-ins were always present.
In fact, just days after the initial search and rescue efforts had begun a second cave-in occurred suspending relief efforts for several hours (Weik, 2010). After nearly two months of being fed by a virtual umbilical cord, overcoming claustrophobia, and wondering if they’d ever see their friends and family again, late in the evening of October 12, 2010, the first miner ascended to the surface and to safety. One by one the remaining 32 miners were lifted through the rescue shaft and were greeted by cheers, hugging, crying, and feelings of elation.
The story of the trapped Chilean miners (which actually consisted of 32 Chileans and one Bolivian) was a story that gripped the world. More than 1,400 journalists were present to witness the final rescue operation (Barrionuevo, 2011). Seemingly every race, color, tongue, and ethnicity was engaged one way or another, hoping and praying for a positive outcome. Amid all of the news-worthy stories that capture the audience’s attention with their negative trauma-like effect the story of the trapped and rescued Chilean miners stands out. This was a story that united nations.
This was a story that was bigger than the color of one’s skin, the language one speaks, or the country one calls home. This was a story about the love of mankind, about teamwork, about sacrifice, and about the basic struggle for survival. Final score: Mankind-1, Adversity-0.
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