We Americans Can Learn Something from the Chilean Celebration of Miners Rescued

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

San Jose Mine, Copiapo, Chile
A satellite image shows the relief efforts to reach the trapped miners in the San Jose Mine in Copiapo, Chile. (credit: DigitalGlobe/Flickr)

Watching those miners emerge in a steel-cage projectile from the collapsed mine in Chile is miraculous. It’s risky business and it has been done with aplomb. What I’ve been struck with is the celebratory spirit of the event. Chileans gather in a central plaza waving Chile’s flag and laughing and cheering; rescued miners surface to quickly embrace their loved ones and then play to the surrounding crowd, pumping fists and yelling and urging supporters on.

Locals Cheer Rescue from Copiapo Mine
Locals cheer in Copiapo square before the start of a risky rescue operation to hoist the 33 trapped miners from the bottom of a collapsed mine. (photo: Bruno Sepulveda/AFP/Getty Images)

I don’t think we would see that type of celebration here in the United States. I imagine a sense of solemnity and solitary viewing might take place. We Americans would silently be waiting for the news of disaster avoided rather than success achieved. And, for me, this is the lesson: acknowledge our frailty as human beings and revere how we move forward and do incredible things in spite of it — with our fists pumping in the air.

And, since I’m a father and a brother, these following three images really grabbed me. They are not shots of the first rescued miner, Florencio Avalos, but of his father and brother thanking the stars, embracing the moment and each other with amazement, and weeping over a loved one who will be coming home again.

Father of Chilean Miner Celebrates His Son's Rescue
Alfonso Avalos, father of Chilean miner Florencio Avalos, celebrates after his son was brought to the surface on October 13, 2010. (photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Father of Chilean Miner Embraces His Son
Alfonso Avalos (right) and his son Wilson embrace after learning Florencio successfully made it to the surface after spending 10 weeks trapped in a collapsed mine 800 km north of Santiago, Chile. (photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Father of Chilean Miner Embraces His Son
(photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

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