For twenty-four hours the world was glued to the television and internet as the drama of the rescue of the Chilean miners unfolded. There were few dry eyes as each of the 33 miners emerged to greet their loved ones after their 69 day ordeal trapped a quarter-of-a-mile beneath Chile’s high desert.
There are many lessons to be learned from the unprecedented rescue operation. The first, of course, is the courage and faith of the miners who for the first 17 days did not know whether they would die in their safe room or be rescued from their tomb. So many mentioned faith and religion as being a sustaining force during the excruciatingly trying time. A number fell to their knees in thanksgiving upon reaching the surface.
One of the rescued miners said when he reached the top that he was in the clutches of both God and Satan while he was down there but chose God.
Another lesson is teamwork. The unrelenting effort of fellow miners and experts brought in to aid in the operation to reach the trapped men first with a lifeline and then with a rescue capsule was inspiring. Three simultaneous efforts were underway to rescue the miners and finally, “Plan B” reached them. Such unity of effort is rare these days. Those six rescuers who voluntarily descended into the mine inside the capsule to assist the miners exhibited a particular kind of courage in risking their lives for their comrades.
An exemplary lesson in leadership came from President Sebastian Pinera and foreman Luis Urzua. It was President Pinera who insisted that efforts to reach the trapped miners continue when others felt the situation was hopeless. It was his decision for the government to take over the operation from the mining company and “pull out all the stops” to reach and save the miners. Finally, the presence of the president and first lady at the drill site during the final rescue was a great demonstration of their commitment to the operation and their compassion for the miners and their families.
In the miners’ safe room and the remaining portion of the collapsed mine the possibility of panic and pandemonium were a real danger that was averted by the leadership of foreman Luis Urzua who offered reassurance and hope to his crew. He insured their survival by rationing the very limited supply of food and water enabling them to survive more than two weeks until the lifeline from the surface reached them.
Above all the rescue demonstrated the value placed upon human life by all those involved.