The tears, the hugs and the faces radiating joy at the sight of the leader of the Chilean miners emerging last from that amazing capsule, ending a dramatic 22-hour rescue operation at the caved-in mine in San Jose, Chile, will be remembered for many days to come. And those 33 brave individuals who restored mankind's faith in the human spirit will not be forgotten.
Over a 70-day period, the miners managed to survive in the depths of the mine. But their real achievement was much greater. Under difficult conditions, they succeeded in conducting themselves as a unified group, with wise leadership and an abundance of solidarity, vitality and compassion. Despite their distress, they even sent messages of encouragement to their relatives and those responsible for their rescue.
The cameras that followed their activities showed people who, in the shadow of mortal danger, did not lose their human character: They provided support to one another and did not allow despair to defeat them. In a world in which popular heroes no longer exist, the miners and their families set a shining example.
Those who engaged in the rescue work, from the day the operation began on September 17 until its emotional conclusion yesterday, inspired awe. It seems that Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and the members of his cabinet, as well as the hundreds of experts who toiled professionally and diligently on the complex, resourceful operation, drew strength and inspiration from the miners themselves. "We proved that hard work and faith conquer everything," Pinera said.
But the worldwide excitement was the result not just of that, but also of the use of the most sophisticated technology, created in space research laboratories, to save human life. And the reaction was perhaps all the more intense because the scientists, engineers and rescuers related to their task with impressive modesty. They didn't spread illusions, didn't refrain from warning of possible mishaps and set a cautious timetable.
It was thanks to them, too, that the whole world held its breath with each miner until he was born anew from the narrow capsule that brought him above ground. Millions of hearts trembled as the members of each family hugged their loved ones.
The citizens of Chile were justifiably filled with pride yesterday. Their country had given mankind the rare privilege of uniting in hope, at least for a few days.
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