Commentary: A happy ending in Chile

To a world with too few happy endings, Chile has given 33.

Being buried alive is a primal human fear. One can hardly imagine the sufferings of trapped miners who survived cave-ins only to die slowly in the dark.

For 17 agonizing days, that seemed to be the fate of 33 Chilean miners buried nearly a half mile deep in a collapsed copper and gold mine.

Then came the string of miracles:

A drill probe – after many failures and against all hope – penetrating the miners’ underground survival chamber. The discovery that all were still alive, having subsisted on minuscule servings of cached tuna and milk.

Their physical and psychological endurance through long weeks of isolation. The staggering technical competence of the rescue engineers, who drilled three small boreholes – and finally the bigger rescue shaft – on winding paths through some of the hardest rock on earth.

Finally, the miners’ triumphant emergence, which elated a world that had been riveted by their predicament and the unprecedented rescue effort. No one in history had spent so many days trapped inside the earth and lived to tell the story.

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