Inspiring news stories don’t come along too often. Inspiring news stories on a global level are even more rare.
The rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile will rate up there with the miracle U.S. hockey win in the 1980 Olympics and the rescue of Baby Jessica from a well near Odessa, Texas, in the 1980s. The story may even hold its own with the likes of the liberation of Europe during World War II and man’s landing on the moon in 1969.
For pure public fascination and celebration this week’s images of 33 miners emerging one by one from a rabbit hole in the Chilean landscape has it hands down. With non-stop coverage on TV and streaming online once the rescuers started pulling the men up, it’s likely no one went through the day Wednesday without more than one update.
Fox News topped out in viewer numbers at 7 million just before 7 p.m. as the last miner came to the surface.
The chance to cover such an inspiring story made me a little jealous of the throngs of media hacks that made their way to the San Jose mine to file a story. The only experience I had in my career covering a mine disaster came in interviews and research I did on the 20th anniversary of the Dutch Creek No. 1 coal mine explosion near Redstone, Colo.
That mine accident didn’t have a happy ending at all. Fifteen miners were killed after miners dug into a methane gas pocket. They weren’t doing much coal mining in that part of Colorado by the time I arrived there but the history of the industry and the grief and loss of a way of life clung like coal dust in the community.
I learned from my interview with miners, their families and mine experts that it takes a special breed of human being to withstand the rigors of making a living deep under the ground. That spirit, displayed by the Chilean 33, along with calm and well-reasoned leadership decisions made for a successful outcome in this case.
When I heard in August that hopes of their rescue were as far off as Christmas I figured these brave men were already in their tombs. Things went much better than anticipated but the idea of surviving for two months half a mile beneath the surface boggle my mind.
Health officials examining the men say they’re in excellent physical health because of the exercise they did while trapped. But to me the more incredible news is that few, if any of the miners seem to be suffering any psychological effects.
The inner strength the Chilean 33 displayed during their ordeal should inspire us in any of life’s situations. Hope can survive, even 2,000 feet beneath the Earth.