As the last rescued Chilean miner came above ground — after spending 69 days deep in the lower reaches of earth and surrounded by 700,000 tons of unstable rock — the world watched in awe and tears. The men appeared remarkably healthy after their ordeal. Emotions were, understandably, high after the survivors completed their half-mile journey to the surface; predictably, the men’s thoughts were on family and faith. Mario Sepulveda, an ebullient man and the second man to emerge from the bullet-shaped rescue tube, said, “I was with God. I was with the Devil. God and the devil were fighting over me, and God won. I always knew they would get me out. I always had faith in the professionals here in Chile and in the Great Creator.” At 56 years of age, Omar Reygadas, one of the older miners, became a great-grandfather for the fourth time while he was trapped underground, while Jimmy Sanchez, the youngest miner at age 19, has a four-month-old baby, and Richard Villarroel is due to become a father in November.
Chilean President Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique, Ph.D, declared that what “started as a possible tragedy,” ended up “as a real blessing from God.” Piñera, in contrast to American President Barack Obama’s actions during the BP oil spill disaster in the United States, was intimately involved in the rescue operation. The Chilean President, his wife, and his top-level staff — Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, Health Minister Jaime Manalich, and the engineer who coordinated the rescue, Andre Sougarret — were visibly present and obviously competent throughout the crisis, informing and rallying the nation and declaring their commitment to the miners’ rescue. Piñera said, “It will take time, but it doesn’t matter how long it takes to have a happy ending.” As “experts” from around the world began second-guessing the Chilean plans, Golborne showed his competence: “There is no need to try to start guessing what could go wrong. We have done that job, and we have hundreds of different contingencies.” One of the miners’ relatives summarized the determination of the nation, “This won’t be a success,” she said, “unless they all get out.”