Life Never the Same Again

After 17 days of isolation, 33 miners consigned to die underground found a way to break their silence.

And tonight marks a great celebration. Remarkable resilience and sheer human determination have triumphed over some of the harshest conditions imaginable. The efficiency and expertise of the team on the surface has made an intricate rescue process seem effortless. There is a tireless energy from everyone involved to see this through to the end.

We witness history in the making. For all the mistakes that have been made, this can, and should, overwrite the lasting national impressions of Chile.

The dignity on show was admirable. The miners understood the procedures for physical and psychological protection. The numbers allowed to greet them on the surface was purposely limited. No complaints followed, nor demands for exceptions. The discipline that built comradeship and ensured survival below the surface was exercised to the end.

This intense rescue mission has spread great euphoria, both nationally and globally. Touching scenes embossed both ends of the age spectrum. Ariel Ticona became a father whilst trapped underground, with his daughter named after Camp Hope. One of the most unforgettable, poignant moments saw the oldest of the crew, 64 year old Mario Gomez, sink to his knees in prayer as the baying celebration dimmed to a compassionate hush.

Mario Gomez in Prayer

Chilean miner Mario Gomez in prayer (BBC)

Public and Private Equilibrium

One by one, the miners were rescued, and yet revealed. The world started learning about private lives, family business, pasts and futures. Herein lies the great test: where do these men and their families go from here? How do they resume their lives? The miners have became heroes, but also public figures, without any control over the issue. Cameras captured every moment of their release. Their intimate moments reunited with family brought tears across the world.

Any debilitative behavioural pattern takes some considerable readjustment, and that all depends on the attitude of the outside world, which is rarely consistent and even less predictable. Celebrity status, however granted, offers complications with the public and private life.

Reports suggest that parties and festivals are being readied for miners when they return home. But will the miners be allowed their privacy if they want to recover it? How do they re-adjust back to life with their families once separated from their comrades? Finding psychological equilibrium once again with the public and private life could be an uncomfortable calibration.

Moreover, there is the question of the indefinite future. Will the miners remain heroes for life? Will the exuberance be forgotten about in the months and years to come? How savagely ironic it would be if those who are lifted are left to fall again from heroes to zeroes.

I find the events tonight incredibly stirring, but I am nervous for the future mental health of these new-found heroes. Society has a way of celebrating and forgetting. There’s nobody to blame for that. You would normally just attribute that superficiality to the cult of celebrity, but not everyone puts themselves there…

Let the balloons that drift away have meaning.

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