On August 5, 2010, 33 miners were trapped 2,000 feet below ground at the San Jose mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Seventeen days passed without any contact with the surface. In darkness. Without fresh air. Without the sun. Without friends and family. Without fresh food.
On the surface, rescuers were giving the miners a 2% chance of deliverance, and they were predicting a 4-month long effort. It was pretty hopeless looking by any measure.
Led by foreman Luis Urzua, the trapped miners must have known what the odds were. Afterall, they had daily made the 2000 foot decent into the mine’s abyss. Past layers and layers of rock. Into the stale air. Into claustrophobic spaces. Past the reach of tools and touch.
Ed Breiner, president of the American company that provided the rescuing drill, commented on the role of leadership and faith in the delivery of the men. He said, “There was leadership below the ground — people of character and faith sustaining themselves for 17 days — and people above ground exchanging ideas … that made the rescue happen.”
At the foundation of the rescue was hope. Without hope the men would still be buried underground in Chile. The incredible leadership in the mine was because of hope in the possibility of salvation. The creativity and hard work above ground was because of hope.
Two and a half months after the mine explosion that trapped the miners, they were extracted out of the darkness into freedom.
Remove hope and none of this heroic story would exist today. Instead a spokesman for the mine and for the Chilean government would have gone before the cameras and simply said, “Folks, today we had a tragedy below ground and 33 men are trapped in the mine beyond our reach and beyond rescue. Our condolences go out to the families.”
The moral of the story is clear. If anyone tells you that “the condition is hopeless,” don’t believe them. It is a cowardly way to live.