Setting Miners Free

Walt Whitman once wrote: "To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, every cubic inch of space is a miracle."

Indeed, after 77 hours, some 50 million gallons of icy water rushing in, and immeasurable prayer, nine Pennsylvania coal miners experienced an extraordinary rescue on Sunday.

Grimy-faced, they were pulled up from 240 feet down, as a grateful nation and even more grateful families looked on. Gov. Mark Schweiker played a Giuliani-like presence throughout the ordeal, reassuring the public and calming fears.

In their plight, the miners proved the value of teamwork. Clinging to what is true and good helped save them. They tied themselves together with rope, and huddled in a "we're-all-in-this together" spirit. They shared Lifesavers, a single sandwich, and wrote letters to loved ones, even as they held out hope they'd be found alive.

The rescue itself was a marvel of technology and ingenuity. An air pipe, which officials later said was put down at their best-guess spot, turned out to be at exactly the right point to reach the miners. (Now some of that same urgency can be used to update old mining maps and help prevent the kind of mistake that led to the flooding of this mine.)

Like the heroism seen on Sept. 11, the miners' resilience and their rescue teach fresh lessons of inner strength.

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