I have been enthralled over the past week or so as the news coverage of the now-rescued Chilean miners filled the television and radio airwaves. It has been riveting coverage, to be sure, as first the miners were found to be alive, then that they were able to receive food and water and other essentials to keep them alive as the rescue continued persistently over two months’ time. We have all marveled at their spirits, their determination, the bonding that helped to strengthen the entire crew. We watched the heroics above-ground, as families and rescue workers toiled day and night to reach the entombed miners. And then, finally, we rejoiced as the drilling broke through the top of the safe room so that the men could be lifted to safety. The story was one that we lived through with those families, in a way. We even came to know some of the names of the trapped miners, and something of their personalities and lives. When the miners began to emerge from their long tube of escape, emotions were evident in the faces and teary eyes of virtually everyone at the site, and likely, from most of us watching. It would have been impossible not to feel the joy of their rescue from certain death.
The ordeal became a truly global event, as geologic, mining and rescue experts from around the world converged on the area outside of Copiapo. Virtually every major news organization converged on the site for weeks, awaiting the chance to report on the result: either the joy of a complete rescue or the tragedy of a failed attempt. As a result of the coverage, we all became enmeshed in what was happening, invested with at least our emotions in whatever the final outcome was to be. The incident provided one of those increasingly rare moments in our lives when everyone seems to be in lockstep with the objective of saving human life. And when success has been achieved, we rejoice not only out of gratitude for the rescue, but also from the feeling that we have all been in this together somehow. It is a powerful emotion, one that is infrequent enough to coax tears.
As I thought about the emotions- my own and those of others- that surfaced during this episode, I thought about some other people in need, specifically the ones I have come to know in a place called Nicaragua. They, too, have been assailed by natural disasters, both drought and flood, which have brought some of its population to the point of despair. Like the miners, many Nicaraguans are “of the earth,” making their livings from what the ground is willing to yield, subject to its vagaries and dangers. And as we grew to admire the trapped miners for their perseverance and spirit, I thought about the indomitable nature of many Nicaraguans I have met: in both cases, I am left in awe at what some people have endured.
In Chile, the destiny of thirty-three lives captured the undivided attention of the world for seventy days. In NIcaragua (and elsewhere, of course, if we choose to look), the lives of millions of human beings are and have been at risk for generations, and the fact barely warrants a notice from most of us. As the last miner was hoisted to the surface on Sunday, the news correspondents marveled at the show of teary emotions from even the most veteran reporters as the miner emerged from the rescue capsule. I noted my own blurred vision at the sight, and wondered out loud about what made this particular, dire circumstance more emotion-worthy than others. Was it the relative uniqueness of a mine collapse? A more bearable number of potential victims? A finite number of days to the ordeal, whether it ultimately would prove successful or not?
Maybe we were able to feel such intense care because, for whatever reason, the news coverage allowed us to see their plight, their families and the importance of these men in a depth not ordinarily experienced via daily news. And by learning even a little bit about them, we cared. Perhaps we possess only enough tears to shed for those we have come to know….