Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I am not sure who first said that phrase, but never can it have been more appropriate than it is today for the 33 miners who are, even as I write, being brought out of 69 days of captivity in the Chilean mine.
Like many people I have been following the rescue on the Internet. I keep coming back to it again, in between my normal activities. There is something compulsive about this, the story which has eclipsed everything else. What a triumph for good news! So often we complain that newspapers and TV only ever report sad, miserable, disasterous stories. People are only interested in tragedy. Well, this story above all others has shown how wrong this claim is. My favourite moment in any film has always been in The Railway Children when their father steps off the train and appears through the steam at the end of the platform. Well today’s real-life reuinions have that feeling multiplied many times.
Here is just a tiny snippet from the BBC live coverage, as it unfolded this morning. I need write no more – this speaks for itself.
0740: Extra health precautions are being taken for the oldest miner, 63-year-old Mario Gomez, as he prepares to enter the capsule deep underground. He is being fitted with a full-face oxygen mask as he has had some respiratory problems.
0752: Lilian Ramirez, the wife of Mario Gomez, walks over to the yellow gantry where she will soon meet the 63-year-old, who has been working in the mines since the age of 12. A few weeks ago, she told the media she had received a memorable letter from him. “He said he loves me. I’ve never received a letter like that from him – even when we were going out he wasn’t romantic.”
0758: Despite concerns about the health of Mario Gomez, the rescuers appear relaxed – laughing and joking, and taking pictures with his wife Liliana Ramirez. The wheel is continuing to turn, and a sense of anticipation is building.
0800: Veteran miner Mario Gomez becomes the ninth man safely pulled to the surface.
0802: Mario Gomez, 63, who was thinking of retiring in November, has now emerged from the mine. Emerging from the cage, he stuck two thumbs in the air and held up a Chilean flag.
0803: Mr Gomez, the oldest man in the mine, falls to his knees in prayer.
0805: “I have come back to life,” he says, quietly.
0811: Every time a miner emerges from the shaft alive, teams at South Africa’s mine rescue training site south of Johannesburg have been smiling with pride, says the BBC’s Karen Allen in the Carletonville gold mining area. “Watching those guys emerge safely feels like another day in paradise,” says one South African mine rescuer.