Rescue Workers, the Other Heroes of the Mine Rescue in Chile

By Dialogo
October 15, 2010

The world rejoiced for the rescue and I think it excellent the manner in which it was executed, the human kindness and emotions was incredible; this made me stop and think that we are capable of uniting and showing love and solidarity in extreme cases, what couldn’t we accomplish if we had this attitude on a daily basis. The rescuers along with the participants in the operation deserve all of our gratitude and admiration, the drilling rig operators who were able to make an excellent path for the capsule. I was as equally moved as everyone that saw the rescue and felt great emotion as one by one they came out. Each having their own way of expressing their happiness, their anguish, their relief at finally being rescued and united with their families. As a Chilean abroad, I felt a great yearning for my country and great pride to be CHILEAN; I also felt great pride for the president, the ministers/secretaries and the authorities present at the site of the exiting capsule.

The six rescue workers who descended to 622 meters below ground in order to
collaborate in the rescue of the thirty-three miners were the last to leave,
contributing to the memory of the event the image of a banner displayed at the
bottom of the excavation: “Mission accomplished Chile.”

Once Luis Urzúa, the last of the miners to be rescued, had reached the
surface, the rescue workers unfolded the banner as a victory announcement to the
world that was following events through the camera installed at the bottom of the

Manuel González was the first to descend to the depths of the mine on board
the Phoenix II capsule and the last to leave the bowels of the earth behind, after
having met the objective of helping the thirty-three miners.

The final images of González were those of a solitary man in a mine gallery,
speaking by telephone with technicians on the surface. “Manuel González Pavez, the
hero of the thirty-three,” the technicians repeated as they recalled the most
emotional moments of the rescue.

“I’ve been here for a week, and I already miss my wife and children; imagine
what it’s like for them after seventy days! It’s terrible!” González said, speaking
by telephone from the depths.

When he arrived, in a scene similar to the Apollo XI moon landing, both
González and the miners became emotional. “They realized that it had finally
happened and that they were all going to get out,” the rescue worker

“I felt very emotional (when I arrived). I felt a lot of affection from them;
it was very nice. Those first moments are something you’re going to remember for the
rest of your life,” he affirmed.

González was the last to abandon the mine. Once safe on the surface, González
said to President Sebastián Piñera, “The job we were given is done.”

Piñera answered, “Don Manolo, you were the last one. What was your final
thought?” “That I hope that this never happens again. I hope that we learn from this
experience, that things in Chilean mining will be different.”

The camera allowed a final glimpse of the lighted, empty mine.