Triumph Of The Human Spirit
“Misión Cumplida: Chile.” These words, displayed on a signboard held by rescue workers after the last of the 33 stranded miners had reached the surface of the San Jose mine, ring very true. The rescue mission wasn't just a successs in the literal sense, but served as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. The rescued men reflect the name of the capsule that brought them to the surface: “fénix,” or one who rises from the ashes.
Mario Sepulveda, the second miner released, is naturally a “changed man” because of the ordeal. However, his inspirational comment truly sums up the experience for all the miners. He told the media about his time in the mine, “I’ve been near God, but I’ve also been near the devil. God won.”
If nothing else, their survival proves the tenacity of the human spirit. Thirty-three men were trapped. All 33 men survived. As a group, they prayed twice a day and remained hopeful that their rescue would come. Because their spirit survived, they did too. They remained cheerful. They watched soccer. Edison Pena requested music be sent to the mine so the men could keep their spirits up by singing. To the surprise of mental health professionals worldwide, depression medication was never needed for the miners; they did it on their own.
The human spirit continues to confound. It provides hope in the midst of horror. It allows us to see the positives in the worst situations. It allows men to see God when faced with the devil. People like the miners, who managed to survive, and survive well, after getting caught in a horrific situation, provide hope to not just the entire nation, but to the whole world. Sebastián Piñera, the Chilean president, called the miners an example of “compassion, courage, and loyalty,” some of the best traits of the human spirit. Had these men not been resilient and not decided to band together and stay positive, no one knows what the outcome would have been. Granted, luck played a role in the rescue going off without a hitch (literally), but the spirit of the men in the worst situation life could have dealt them gave spirit to an entire nation. If they could stay positive, so could Chile.
The miners of Chile achieved the impossible. In theory, the 33 men should not have survived the collapse of 700,000 tons of rock above them relatively unscathed. They should not emerge from the surface in a condition that the New York Times reports to be “more than satisfactory.” Yet they did. Not only that, they highlighted the power of people-to-people contact by giving the Chilean and Bolivian presidents the ability to hug each other amidst strained relations and begin on the path to partnership. They gave rescuers the inspiration to sacrifice their own lives in exchange for the rescue of the miners. They gave the Chileans hope.
Hope. Esperanza. It is the only emotion that can appropriately describe a situation like this. Ariel Ticona, one of the miners, named his baby girl to reflect his hope that he would meet her. His spirit prevailed and as a result, his dream came true. Misión Cumplida, indeed.
Reach contributor Jaime Toplin here.
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