Chilean Miners Rescued

According to several news sources, 14 of the 33 Chilean miners have been rescued with the others expected by the end of the day. The following are selected excerpts from CNN that help us understand the character of the miners and how they reacted to their entrapment. While it’s a small sample, their stories demonstrate resilience and a sense of nationalism.

“They told us the first five days were really anxious-ridden, they didn’t know what was happening on the surface,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said. “But when they heard the drilling, they realized the country had not abandoned them.” Pinera said the miners told him that noise alone gave them a sense of release – and when contact was made for the first time, the miners knew for sure the country was behind them. He added that many relayed the experience of being stuck underground had changed all of their lives and for many it gave “a new meaning to their life.”

Avalos, the 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners, was chosen to be first out because he was in the best condition. When the capsule came out of the manhole-sized opening, Avalos stepped out as bystanders cheered, clapped and broke into a chant of the country’s name — “Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!” The next three men out, including Mamani of Bolivia, followed because they were deemed the fittest of body and mind. Panic attacks during the ascent, they said, were the biggest concern. The miners were not sedated — they needed to be alert in case something went awry.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said he hopes to return to his country with rescued Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani, depending on his condition. “Bolivians will never forget” the accident and rescue, Morales said, thanking Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. “This incident is uniting us more and more every day,” Morales said.

The ninth miner rescued was Mario Gómez, the oldest of the group at age 63. The day of the cave in Gómez, who has been mining since the age of 12, had been getting ready to retire but found himself in the mines to test a new truck. Gómez has lung problems because of his history of mining and also lost a couple of fingers during a previous mining accident. He is known in the group of 33 as the spiritual one and requested a crucifix and other religious symbols so the men could construct a shrine underground.

Mario Gómez’ wife rubbed her hands and clasped them together in anticipation as he was being unloaded from the rescue capsule. Gómez raised his hands gave two thumb up as he waved the Chilean flag proudly and pointed at his family. He has said he will never step foot in a mine again – a place he has worked since he was 12. His wife Lillane Ramirez has prepared a honeymoon for them as soon as he is ready. After exchanging in a long embrace with his wife, Gómez dropped to the desert floor on his knees, and prayed with his hands clasped around the Chilean flag. He was then loaded onto a stretcher and covered in a blanket – but he raised his hand with exuberance in triumph as he was carted off.

The eleventh miner rescued was Jorge Galleguillos. Galleguillos, who has been working in mining for 16 years, has had two previous work related accidents. But his family portrayed him as a man who loves mining – and regularly collects stones, minerals and rocks from the areas where he works. He had said in a previous video message that he was not feeling well in the mine, and he is on medication for hypertension. Down in the mine, he was known as the “folklore guy,” and had even requested a guitar be sent down to him. The mining minister wrote back, saying unfortunately they couldn’t fit a guitar, but sent down music so he could listen and sing along to lift his spirits, as well as those of the other miners. Galleguillos, who is married and has several children, was also one of the miners concerned about his kids’ schooling being impacted. The mining ministers, in response, set up a schooling area at Camp Hope.

The twelfth miner rescued was Edison Peña. Peña, 34, also sent a request for music while he was down in the mine because of his love for music – especially Elvis. While trapped underground he led the group of 33 miners in sing-a-longs. He has reportedly also been running 10km a day underground in the available space.

The fourteenth miner rescued was Victor Zamora. Jessica Cortez, his wife, and their child stood nearby tearful, but with wide smiles on their face as they waited for him to emerge. A rescue worker reached down and swapped hard hats with Zamora’s son as he was being pulled to the surface. Cortez put her hand over her mouth and tears began to stream down her face at the sight of her husband. Zamora, 33, is a carrier pigeon handler and poet. Zamora didn’t spend too much time regularly inside the mine, working mostly as a vehicle mechanic. He and his wife Jessica Cortez are expecting a daughter in a few months and they now plan to name the baby Paz Vicotria, meaning Peace Victory, if it is a girl. He and his wife moved to the mine after he lost his job when an earthquake in Talcahuano destroyed the area.

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