Plane crashes, terror threats, oil spills, toxic leaks. The TV news diet is often dire, rarely joyous. And then there were the pictures Wednesday of brave, dignified miners who had been trapped beneath the ground for more than two months being brought to the surface, to breathe fresh air and to hug their loved-ones.
Communications technology — including live video from within the mine — turned the entire world into a global village hoping for the safe release of men they did not know and would probably never meet. It was as if each of us could see ourselves in their place, wondering how we would cope with the sustained terror and then the sudden emergence into the light.
"It feels like we're all there with them even though we're so far away in London," said Jose Torra, 34, early Wednesday morning as the rescue unfolded. "For once it is a story with a good ending."
They were the hugs felt round the world. It's a feature of the TV age that intimacy can be transmitted live to hundreds of millions of people simultaneously, creating a shared memory, of great moments.
"It's a miracle, a wonderful event," said Bernard Carr, a mathematics and astronomy professor chatting with other passengers at London's Liverpool Street train station.
He praised the miners' camaraderie but cautioned that the stress the men will face now that they are above ground may be more intense than their ordeal below.
Some marveled at the miners' capacity to cope for so long, and feared they could not have endured the hardship.
"It's pretty amazing to see them stay down there that long and not go crazy," said Tamara Craiu, a 21-year-old student from Singapore who is taking classes in London. "I'd go mad."
The riveting images were broadcast live throughout much of the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa throughout the night and during the day, drawing round-the-clock coverage from many cable outlets.
The TV coverage had special resonance for Todd Russell and Brant Webb, two Australian miners who were trapped by an earthquake more than half than a mile (a kilometer) underground for two weeks in 2006. Both said they were overcome by emotion as they watched from half a world away.
But Russell, 38, warned that the freed miners face a harsh adjustment. He has suffered from insomnia and nightmares since his rescue and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which he blames for the collapse of his marriage.
"They've got a long way to go," he told Australia's Nine Network television. "They're only in the early stages of their release."
The Chamber of Mines of South Africa, which has the deepest mines in the world, sent a message of congratulations to their counterparts in Chile after the first few miners were lifted to the surface.
"We have been encouraged by the ingenuity of those responsible for the rescue operation," said acting CEO Peter Bunkell, who said serious technical challenges had to be overcome to get the men out alive.
In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle rejoiced.
"We're very happy about it — what's happening here is a little modern miracle," he said on Germany's ARD television.
"I would like to express my respect for the Chilean government and also the Chilean people, who are now celebrating in joy but of course held out for weeks, didn't give up on anyone and worked to protect and save every life."
Associated Press Writers Paisley Dodds and Benjamin Timmins in London, Rod McGuirk in Sydney, Michelle Faul in Johannesburg and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.
- In Germany
- Foreign Minister
- Nine Network television
- South Africa
- Bernard Carr
- Todd Russell
- oil spills
- fresh air