Amid global currency and maritime disputes, terrorist plots and insurgent attacks, rising income inequality and dogged unemployment, the world has turned its attention to a barren piece of land in northern Chile.
There, 33 men trapped a half-mile underground for the past 69 days are being hauled up one by one to the earth’s surface through an inspiring feat of human will and ingenuity that unified much of the world for at least a few hours on Wednesday.
Media outlets dropped coverage of disputes, gossip, and politics to focus on the inspiring story unfolding in the Atacama Desert. More than 1,000 reporters are at the San Jose Mine to broadcast the drama to a voracious readership, whose interest was evident in the search engines Google and Yahoo!, where variations on the phrase “Chile mine rescue” were top search items for much of the morning.
Left and right unite
In South America, the rescue mission united left-leaning and right-leaning governments more prone to rivalry that comaraderie. Conservative Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and Socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales were together at a site (although Mr. Morales was several hours late to see the rescue of a Bolivian miner). Venezuela’s fiery leftist Hugo Chávez took time to tweet “Estamos con Chile!” (“We are with Chile”).
In the United States, even the rival television news outlets of left-leaning MSNBC and right-leaning Fox News could finally agree. The rescue “takes the whole globe and brings us together,” said Fox News correspondent Adam Housely. “You know what?” said MSNBC correspondent Kerry Sanders, for his part. “I think we need this as a world. I think we do. We need this.”
Sporting events rally the world around games; one side is always a loser. Terrorist plots rally the world around tragedy; they feed on fear. Recent and upcoming elections worldwide – in Sudan, Iran, or home in America – seem to divide rather than unify populations.
But the still-unfolding rescue of the Chilean miners has rallied the world around joy and hope that humanity can take lessons from the event. There is no loser in the rescue.
'Miracle in the Desert'; 'Welcome to Life'
While the story was nowhere to be found on the homepage of The Times of India or The Kuwait Times, it dominated the webpage of many European dailies today. Germany’s Der Spiegel carried the headline on its home page “Wunder in der Wüste” (“Miracle in the Desert”). Spain’s El Mundo carried the headline “Bienvenidos a la vida” (“Welcome to Life”).
On the other side of the world, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline “Jubilation as miners finally emerge” on its homepage. The English-language version of China’s state-run Xinhua updated its homepage as miners were rescued, counting up the 33rd man, expected to be shift foreman Luis Urzua.
The rescue mission also has captivated Chinese, likely because of China’s large and dangerous mining industry. An estimated 2,600 coal miners were killed in 2009 in China, an average of seven a day, down from 3,215 in 2008, according to Reuters. The most dangerous year on record was 2002, with 6,995 deaths.
“Lucky people who were born in Chile.... If it was us, we would definitely have been buried alive and died,” a user said on the popular Chinese web portal sohu.com, according to the Singapore-based Straits Times. “Chile's rescue operation has humiliated China. Think about it, so many Chinese workers die in mining disasters,” wrote another.
Musicians and celebrities have also been captivated to the rescue mission in Chile. Justin Bieber took the time out of his music schedule to tweet “miracles do happen.” Actor Michael Caine tweeted that "Am waiting in a tv studio to do my last interview, watching the happiest moment I've ever seen on tv, Chilean miners rescue...."
New dawn for miners
But the intense worldwide interest and media coverage of the Chile miners’ rescue, while uplifting to the world, will also present its own challenges to the miners. The Associated Press reports:
Contracts for book and movie deals are pending, along with job offers. More money than they could dream of is already awaiting their signature.
But eventually, a new reality will set in – and for most, it won't be anything like the life they knew before the mine collapsed above their heads.
"Before being heroes, they are victims," University of Santiago psychologist Sergio Gonzalez told the AP. "These people who are coming out of the bottom of the mine are different people ... and their families are, too."