Chilean Miners See Light at the End of the Tunnel

Cynthia Dermody
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miner wearing headlampTrapped in a mine for 65 days with limited food and water, not knowing how long the rescue efforts attempting to reach you some 2,000 feet underground will take, if they will be successful at all. Ever. What happens when you run out of food? Water? Do you keep hoping or just give up -- sit back and wait to die?

The chilling ordeal of the 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine for the last 65 days is a variety of "terrified" that most people fortunately never encounter. But then, neither do they get to experience the glorious level of hope, gratitude, and adulation at the news that freedom could be just four days away.

These men -- assuming they do survive -- will never be the same after this experience. I'll bet most of them will change their life, at the very least pick a new career. You just don't survive an ordeal like this and not acquire some new appreciation for life.

But this is all a bit premature. The miners are not out of the hole yet.

Now begins the most dangerous part of the mission. Now that the huge drill and rescue shaft has punched through the tunnel a half-mile below ground, the next stage is to decide how to get the rescue capsule down there. It's not simply a matter of running an elevator down to the trapped men, loading them on, and shuttling them up. The worry, as with the drill and shaft, is that anything they send down will get stuck on the jagged rocks. The capsule carrying the rescued men could also get trapped on the way back up, an experience that would horrify even the bravest of the brave.

Best case scenario, the men start getting out in four days. Worst case, more like eight days, or ... but let's take it one positive step at a time.

As the engineers work out all those technical details, other rescue experts are trying to decide who comes up first, likely a ranking based on a combination of age, health, ability to stay down in the mine alone etc. That can't be an easy assignment for the rescuers or for the men down below, who just want to get the hell out of there as fast as they can. And I'm sure the men also can't help but dream about the very first things they will do once they are sprung.

One of the workers is just 19. A baby! I'll bet the first thing he does is run and hold his mother. If it were me down there, I'd make a bee-line for my children, envelop them, and not let them go for days. I'd insist they go to the hospital with me and sleep with me in my hospital bed.

And then I'd order a fFench onion soup, the biggest, juiciest steak I could find with a side of crunchy french fries, and a three-alarm chocolate cake for dessert. Finally but not finally, I would give thanks, so much thanks, thanks like I've never given thanks before, to all the many people up above, down below, and in between that brought me here.

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