The rescue of the miners was a complete success: an engineering feat, a miracle of faith and survival, a lesson in international cooperation.
As 48-year-old Victor Segovia, one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days half a mile deep in a goldmine, was reeled to the surface in a narrow capsule, the country’s president, Sebastian Piera, hugged him and said: “Welcome to life.” Ironic as it may seem, the trapped miners survived only because they had a full life – one of faith, sharing, discipline, structure, unity, and self-sacrificing leadership. We have much to learn from their experience.
As each of the miners emerged into the spotlights or bright sunlight of the Atacama Desert, people from all over the world were riveted to their televisions. Asked what was so interesting, a woman said it was seeing something that really worked.
We live at a time when nothing seems to work, the global and national economy, the political systems and the relations between nations, communities and even families.
The world is awash with failures, bungling and incompetence, whether human or technological. British Petroleum’s blowout preventers did not work in the Gulf of Mexico. The US response to Hurricane Katrina was woefully inadequate. There are many more examples.
But the rescue of the Chilean miners was a complete success: an engineering feat, a miracle of faith and survival, an object lesson in international cooperation. “It is a heart-warming story,” said a New Yorker. “It’s family values. It is leadership. It is everything that we should have here.”
Sparing no expense, Chilean President Piera asked for and received help from a dozen countries. An Austrian company made the winch and pulley system for the capsule. NASA provided a high-calorie diet designed to prevent nausea from the rotation of the capsule as the miners travelled through curves in the narrow escape hole cut through solid rock. Center Rock, Inc, of Berlin, Pennsylvania, built the pistondriven hammers that pounded open the hole. Doctors from NASA and the Chilean navy contributed their expertise on the stress of prolonged confinement. But more than anything else, faith was the key to the survival and rescue of the trapped miners.
With faith in God and in Luis Urzua, their shift commander, and an unwavering hope of rescue, the miners survived 17 days on a 48-hour emergency food supply. Every other day each had two spoonfuls of tuna, a cup of milk, one cracker and some peach topping.
A routine of work, rest and even recreation kept them mentally and physically healthy. Unity prevailed. They even agreed to share any income that would accrue from their ordeal. When deliverance came, the young, elderly and men in fragile physical or psychological health came up first. The foremen were among the last.
What a contrast with the conduct of the Wall Street magnates who rake in big bonuses while the economy struggles and lowlevel employees see their income decline year after year.