October 13, 2010

October 13, 2010: The San Jose Mine Rescue



     As I write this post, the following is occurring:

    The 25th miner to be rescued, Renan Avalos, 29, is on his way up. Renan’s younger brother Florencio was the first miner to be brought to the surface just after midnight on Wednesday. He decided to come to work in the San Jose mine four months ago.

     I interrupt my writing to view Renan Avalos’ reunion with his wife. The BBC commentator noted that there is amazing discipline among the press, who are unwilling to invade the privacy of the miner’s reunions, yet who know the whole world is participating in the event unfolding at the San Jose Mine in Chile.

     For me, it’s been a day of distractions characterized by an inability to focus. Partially, it’s that this day follows five hectic days. Two days were absorbed by Fort Ligonier (PA) Days: photographing its ninety–minute parade, manning our Beanery Writers Group table, and enjoying festival concert. On Sunday my husband Monte and I traveled to Harrisburg for a conference on poverty, which ended mid-afternoon on Monday. Leaving the conference, we headed to Minersville, where I finally met two fourth cousins—Bob and Allen Borinsky—who filled me in on some family history. We left Minersville, ate in Pottsville, and found a motel room a little further on. Tuesday morning we took side routes—not the interstate—back to Laurel Mountain Borough, arriving in time to attend Mellow Mike, where I was guided some writers in practice writing about structures.

     It seems coincidental that Lawrence Borinsky, the grandfather of Bob and Allen, died in a mining accident in Minersville. He was 27 years old. He left behind a two year old son, William a.k.a. Vince, the father of the two brothers.

     So perhaps my restlessness is due to tiredness.

    Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that the date is the thirteenth—even though it’s Wednesday, not Friday.

    However, a large part of the distraction is a deep-seated need to participate in a global celebration—good news, for a change—surpassing that which happened at the Quecreek Mines in July, 2002 (QUECREEK MINE DISASTER: A 21st Century Historical Site in Somerset County, PA).  Then, nine miners were rescued—a miracle. Although I lived about twenty miles from the site, I watched in New Jersey, where I was visiting my sister, Kitty.

      Today, thirty-three miners are being rescued. Is one rescue scene more miraculous than the other? Not really…but as the world rejoiced in the rescue of the nine, they are now rejoicing in the rescue of the thirty-three. And I am drawn to the computer screen to watch, to listen, to the rescue event on a day with a very unlucky number.


     Chili has a rough history in its mines. Miners there, according to a BBC broadcaster, earn fifteen to eighteen thousand dollars a year. Workers at this mine earn a bonus, because it is considered more dangerous.

     Mining accounts for forty per cent of Chile’s income, making it very important to the country. But today is a day to celebrate.

     I stop typing just about six-thirty p. m. Chili time—five-thirty Pennsylvania time—to watch Renan Avalos being released from the rescue capsule, the Phoenix. His big smile is charming, his wave a recognition of the crowd that awaits him, cheering.

     The camera underground showed the men waiting to be rescued. There was a predetermined order of their escaping the damp, dank, hot, rocky, prison they’d been in for sixty-nine days. Yet…

     The discipline. The patience. The amazing composure…

they displayed was outstanding. No mass competition to escape, no yelling.  

     Even the media demonstrate discipline. There is an unusual attitude of not wanting to invade privacy, mingling with the recognition that the whole world is part of the event, and they have a job to do.

   The 26th miner now being brought up is Claudio Acuna who celebrated his… birthday in the mine on 9 September.

     The miners are being raised from their cave faster as the day goes on.

     Comments and my thoughts run in a similar direction: the rebirth of the miners, who spent sixty-nine days in the underground (an earth womb), entering the cage to rise through the tunnel (the birth canal) and emerging into the light (the world).  

     Miner twenty-six is now being released from the Phoenix. Claudio Acuna is being greeted by Fabiola Araya, who has brought him a signed football shirt from his favourite club Colo Colo.

     Shortly after his rescue, Acuna was reported to have proposed to have to his long-time partner, with whom he has a young daughter.1901 Claudio Acuna celebrated a birthday while in the mine, turning 35.

     The rescue is expected to be completed by midnight, barring any incidents, taking exactly twenty-four hours less than predicted.  BBC World Service correspondent Piers Scholfield noted the increasing speed of the rescues: 9mins 13seconds for the last ascent!

     What happens to your soul, your mind, when you are stuck underground for sixty-nine days? What happens to the soul and mind of the people who rescue you?

     As I end this post, I watch the celebration, listen to the cheering, as the twenty-seventh miner is released from the Phoenix:

     Mr Lobos’s football connections served him well in the mine. Barcelona star David Villa sent a signed t-shirt. Villa’s father and grandfather were both miners… Franklin Lobos, 53, is a former local league footballer. He was working as a driver in the mine.

     Twenty-seven down—rather, up. Six more to go. No, eight more—there are two rescuers in the cold cave.

     I think I’ll take a break, get dinner, and be ready to watch miner number twenty-eight surface.

     I hope you will join me and others around the world, and rejoice with them.

     Thus ends my journal for October 13, 2010.





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A Chilean’s Thoughts on the Chilean Earthquake


QUECREEK MINE DISASTER: A 21st Century Historical Site in Somerset County, PA

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1

Drought, Drought, Drought…Through Time in Southwestern Pennsylvania


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