Thursday, 14 October 2010


The 33 Miners


I remember (just about) being glued to the TV coverage of the Apollo moon landing back in 1969 and recall the sense of history in the making, as the pictures showing Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the lunar surface were beamed back to earth. As a child of 13 I was awestruck looking at the extra terrestrial drama unfold, but in the early hours of yesterday morning I sat transfixed watching live coverage of the rescue of 33 men trapped in the subterranean depths of the San Jose mine in Chile. The two events seem parallel to me in historical significance, but in terms of raw human emotion the plight and unfolding resolution of the miners situation is uniquely moving and inspiring. I confess the rescues moved me to tears, as each one in turn emerged in the tiny capsule from a depth of 620m of solid rock and were reunited with loved ones who have been waiting and hoping for the past 69 days.

Freed miner Esteban Rojas kneels to pray
with his wife after being brought to the
surface from the San Jose mine

There were so many heroic acts associated with the rescue it is difficult to single out one, but certainly the rescue worker who made the initial descent stands out for me as the man of the hour whose bravery and composure were just extraordinary. On another level the co-operation of nations shows what can be achieved through unity of purpose, apparently American engineers were pivotal in the drilling operation and the specialised drill was manufactured here at Smithfield Industrial Estate at Shannon, just a fifteen minute drive from my home. The world media gathered to cover the rescues and ensured when the first man, Florencio Avalos (31) emerged unscathed there was global celebration.

Luis Ursula (front right) the foreman of the
mine and leader of the trapped men
was the last to be rescued.

Many people around the world have been praying for this happy outcome, a point acknowledged when the Chilean President described the rescue as ‘a miracle’. Chile is still largely a country of religious faith with a large Roman Catholic population and a growing number of Evangelical Christians. As well as food and water miniature Bibles were also fed down the pipeline to the miners and it will be interesting to hear in coming days the details of how they lived together and kept their morale up in such difficult circumstances. Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be rescued said in an interview, "I have been with God and I've been with the devil," And judging from the disposition of the men as they emerged from the rescue capsule, morale was maintained and spirits were kept high. At a time when we are so accustomed to the daily tirade of doom and gloom it is a wonderful occasion to genuinely rejoice and celebrate this marvellous outcome of human endurance , ingenuity and courage.

Gerard O'Shea


Barbara said...

Gerry, I felt the very same. I didn’t see all but I was up at 2.30am on the 13th and saw the first miner come to the top at 4.10, it was amazing. It was a miracle and so thankful to God for this happy outcome. And indeed we wait to hear more and hopefully a lot of praise to God.


Tony Carey said...

The "Media" what would we do without the,m, it feels like the miners were to the Moon and back.


Dew of Hermon said...

I think you missed the point there Tony, these men were going about their everyday job when circumstances beyond their control caused them to be trapped over 600m below ground.They survived for 17 days in total darkness on limited rations of food until they made contact with the rescue team. This story is not about Media, it's about Miners and more to the ooint 33 men who showed such valour and heroism in circumstances that would break most of us !

Stella said...

Lighten up Tony this story is a 'good news' one, all too rare in these days. Viva Chile !


Tony said...

It was absolutely fantastic to see those men rescued and reunited with their families, praise the Lord.

Mike said...

This was amazing courage and an amazing rescue.