With history as a guide, these things are supposed to end badly. Very badly. But today, 33 Chilean miners, trapped underground since August, are back in the light of day with their loved ones, thanks to an international effort and technology.
It’s one of those stories that make one proud to be part of the human family that can be diverse yet come together when tragedy strikes.
Just earlier this year, an explosion in the Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 27. Mine disasters are not as common as they were in the early years of the 20th century. The worst mining disaster in the nation’s history occurred on Dec. 6, 1907, at Monongah, W.Va., with 361 casualties.
Explosions and large death tolls are usually associated with coal mines. The mine in Chile was for gold and silver, elements not as volatile. Still, being stuck underground, trying to stay alive and hearing that a rescue, if it works, is three months away is bound to be disheartening. But an international team went to work on getting the miners out, including American companies, some of which found a higher calling than making money.
“Companies exist to make money, but there’s no greater satisfaction to the soul than saving somebody’s life,” Fred Slack, vice president for business development at Schramm, the West Chester, Pa.-based company whose drill rig bored the rescue hole at the San José Mine, told USA Today.
Video equipment came from Japan and cable came from Germany. Such an effort sounded similar to the Courrières mine disaster in France in 1906. This one killed nearly 1,100 miners, but Germany sent a team of rescuers even though France and Germany were nationalistic to a degree that would eventually lead to World War I. National differences had to be put aside to save fellow miners.
Only a spirit of cooperation was evident in Chile (if one discounts the simultaneous presence of some of the miners’ wives and mistresses). One wonders if the outcome would have been different if such a spirit would have been evident in South Fulton, Tenn., last week where firefighters deliberately let a house burn down because the homeowner had not paid a $75 firefighting fee.
Someone in Chile said the rescue was 75 percent technology and 25 percent miracle. Given the history of mining almost any lives saved seems miraculous. That all of the men were able to escape the bowels of the earth to safety is a testament to man’s humanity toward man.
- The Chilean mine rescue is one of those stories that make one proud to be part of the human family that can be diverse yet come together when tragedy strikes.