October 18, 2010
Rescue efforts for the 33 men trapped in Chile’s San Jose Mine have come to a triumphant close with the recovery of the last miner, Luis Alberto Urzua, the 54-year-old foreman credited with helping the men survive 17 days before they were discovered. Their 69-day ordeal—the longest entrapment in human history—is finally over.
I marvel at how the world has united behind these brave men and the Chileans determined to save them. Live video from within the mine and hourly news feeds have brought us closer to them—and to our own humanity. As we’ve grown to care about these 33 strangers, their plight and dignity despite it compels us to imagine the unimaginable: How would we cope, cut off from light and our loved ones, possibly forever?
But, who among us can truly understand what these men have endured while entombed 2,050 feet underground? One thing, however, is certain. They’ve survived the unthinkable, demonstrating an indomitable spirit that 700,000 tons of rock failed to crush.
Quoted in The Guardian, rescued miner, Mario Antonio Sepulveda, explains: “I was with God, and I was with the devil; they fought me, but God won. He took me by my best hand … and I held on to him. I never thought for one minute that God wouldn’t get me out of there. I believe that I had extraordinary luck. I believe this was a test … and I believe that we have the possibility to confront things in life … But I’m very happy that it happened to me because I believe it was the moment in which to make changes. The professionals who do all this publicity and television, the only personal thing I ask is for you not to treat us as celebrities or journalists. I want you to continue treating me like Mario Antonio Sepulveda, a worker, a miner.”
Free at last, Mario and his fellow miners have inspired us from the depths with their courage, fortitude and grace. Now safely home, they bring back these poignant lessons:
Our capacity for hope, faith and love can sustain us in our darkest hour.
Working together toward a just and common end can move mountains—truly.
Adversity can make us stronger by drawing out the best in us.
We must cherish what and who really matters in our lives—always.