London store customer watches Chile mine rescue
Lennart Preiss  /  AP
Customer Alan Frame stands in front of television screens showing the rescue of trapped miners in Chile in a store in London on Wednesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 10/13/2010 4:01:15 PM ET 2010-10-13T20:01:15

Plane crashes, terror threats, oil spills, toxic leaks. The TV news diet is often dire, rarely joyous. And then there were the pictures Wednesday of brave, dignified miners who had been trapped beneath the ground for more than two months being brought to the surface, to breathe fresh air and to hug their loved ones.

Communications technology — including live video from within the mine — turned the entire world into a global village hoping for the safe release of men they did not know and would probably never meet. It was as if each of us could see ourselves in their place, wondering how we would cope with the sustained terror and then the sudden emergence into the light.

"It feels like we're all there with them even though we're so far away in London," said Jose Torra, 34, early Wednesday morning as the rescue unfolded. "For once it is a story with a good ending."

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They were the hugs felt round the world. It's a feature of the TV age that intimacy can be transmitted live to hundreds of millions of people simultaneously, creating a shared memory of great moments.

In New York City, Mark and Susan Vannucci, a landscaper and a nurse from Bethpage, N.Y., watched the rescue on a TV at a restaurant in Times Square.

'It's family values, it's leadership'
"It's a heartwarming story. It's family values, it's leadership, it's everything that we should have here," Mark Vannucci said. His wife said: "Instead of those guys in the mine turning on each other, they worked together, they bonded."

"It's a miracle, a wonderful event," said Bernard Carr, a mathematics and astronomy professor chatting with other passengers at London's Liverpool Street train station. He praised the miners' camaraderie but cautioned that the stress the men will face now that they are above ground may be more intense than their ordeal below.

Video: This live event has concluded (on this page)

Some marveled at the miners' capacity to cope for so long, and feared they could not have endured the hardship.

"It's pretty amazing to see them stay down there that long and not go crazy," said Tamara Craiu, a 21-year-old student from Singapore who is taking classes in London. "I'd go mad."

The rescue of each miner set off a wave of congratulatory messages on Twitter, where many were already suggesting Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck or Nicholas Cage star in a Hollywood movie on the ordeal.

Among millions of people who watched television coverage was U.S. President Barack Obama, who hailed the rescue as an inspiration to the world.

Obama: 'Inspired the world'
"This rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world," Obama said in Washington.

Some Internet users in Mexico posted bittersweet messages, praising Chile's government but expressing regret that their country could not save the 65 miners who died in 2006 after an explosion in a coal mine.

In Spain, Elias Saguillo, one of some 50 Spanish coal miners who staged a monthlong underground protest in September over unpaid wages and demands for subsidies, said he and his colleagues followed the Chilean ordeal day after day and are now elated over the rescue.

"Mainly we are proud of how the Chilean miners endured. From the first day through to the end, they behaved like true miners," Saguillo, 45, said after finishing his shift at Las Cuevas mine in northern Palencia province, where he and colleagues spent 28 days at a depth of 500 meters (1,650 feet).

Saguillo said the worst part for the Chileans had to be the two weeks they spent right after the mine collapsed, before word from above ground reached them and they did not know if anyone was even looking for them. "Every possible fear must have gone through their heads," Saguillo said.

The riveting rescue images were broadcast live throughout much of the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa throughout the night and during the day, drawing round-the-clock coverage from many cable outlets.

China: 'Miracle of life'
State broadcaster China Central Television ran a segment on its evening broadcast, while the official Chinese news agency Xinhua carried an editorial praising the rescue: "For more than two months, the miners, families, citizens and the government all have created a miracle of life. The rescue reflects the shining moment of human nature."

China's avid interest is partly a reflection of its own sensitivity to mining issues. China's mining industry is considered by far the world's deadliest, with more than 2,600 coal miners killed last year by accidents and blasts. Those figures reflect a decrease from previous years as the government moved to improve safety by shutting down many illegal mines.

In Seoul, the miners were a top news item on numerous media outlets, with 24-hour all-news channel YTN closely following the rescue.

Slideshow: Rescue brings joy to families and nation

The Korea Economic Daily also ran a photo showing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera hugging a rescued miner on its front page with a headline reading: "A 69-day miracle ... trapped Chilean miners pulled out."

Clifford Aron, an American businessman who lives in Poland, said he was deeply moved by the heroism of the miners and the quality of Chile's leaders.

"The obvious contrast is with America," said Aron, a 52-year-old Brooklyn native. "With Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration was completely incompetent and out to lunch on the human tragedy; with the BP oil spill, the Obama approach was to punt over responsibility to BP. The Chileans have shown us what leadership and crisis management is all about. Lives were at stake and the whole machinery of government snapped into action."

He said the miners show stunning resilience.

"This was the most amazing story I had ever seen," he said. "Those miners are the greatest heroes I can think of — for their endurance and solidarity in the most unimaginable conditions. What an inspiration to us all to learn how to get along."

'Long way to go' after release
The TV coverage also had special resonance for Todd Russell and Brant Webb, two Australian miners who were trapped by an earthquake more than half than a mile (a kilometer) underground for two weeks in 2006. Both said they were overcome by emotion as they watched from half a world away.

But Russell, 38, warned that the freed miners face a harsh adjustment. He has suffered from insomnia and nightmares since his rescue and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which he blames for the collapse of his marriage.

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"They've got a long way to go," he told Australia's Nine Network television. "They're only in the early stages of their release."

The Chamber of Mines of South Africa, which has the deepest mines in the world, sent a message of congratulations to their counterparts in Chile.

"We have been encouraged by the ingenuity of those responsible for the rescue operation," said acting CEO Peter Bunkell, who said serious technical challenges had to be overcome to get the men out alive.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle rejoiced.

"What's happening here is a little modern miracle," he said on Germany's ARD television. "I would like to express my respect for the Chilean government and also the Chilean people, who are now celebrating in joy but of course held out for weeks, didn't give up on anyone and worked to protect and save every life."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Miner rescue captivates audiences around the world

  1. Closed captioning of: Miner rescue captivates audiences around the world

    >>> watching them.

    >> reporter: a cheer is the same in any language and there's been a lot of cheering. the headlines reflect the reaction to the drama playing out everywhere.

    >> never before has mankind ever retrieved any living person from this depth.

    >> reporter: in australia, miners who themselves once survived being draped in the depths were moved by the rescue of these miners. they're worried, too.

    >> it's all going to take a toll at the end of the day .

    >> reporter: but mostly there's been wonder at so extraordinary an outcome. even journalists deeply affected.

    >> my heart was pounding, i was drying. every single reporter, every single person , grown men in tears.

    >> reporter: the pope in rome was announced that his own prayers for the men would continue. president obama spoke for many.

    >> this rescue is a tribute to not only the determination of the rescue workers and the chile government but the resolve.

    >> reporter: from tokyo to toronto, it's been a good story. and spanish language networks have drawn huge audiences and chilean restaurants everywhere have been packed with patrons eager to share their joy.

    >> it's a very happy moment for every chilean in the world.

    >> i think that nobody is going to forget this day.

    >> reporter: by every means of communication, the story is skipping around the world. experts straining to explain what just months ago seemed impossible. while expats have tried to decide are they feeling more happiness or pride? says isidore?

    >> both.

    >> reporter: logic says the miners would have perished. the human spirit

Gallery: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

Read about each of the 33 miners as they are rescued.

Photos: Chilean mine collapse

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  1. Carlos Galleguillos and Tabita Galleguillos, relatives of trapped miner Jorge Galleguillos, wait for news outside the San Jose Mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Monday, Oct. 11. The engineer leading Chilean rescue efforts, Andres Sougarett, said Monday his team successfully tested a rescue capsule nearly all the way down to where 33 miners are trapped. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Drill operators Jeff Hart, left, and James Staffel, both U.S. citizens, wave as the drill that made the hole reaching the miners is transported away from the mine on Monday. (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Surrounded by media crews, onlookers and mine staff, the main rescue drill leaves the mine on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rescuers test a capsule similiar to the one that will be used to recover the trapped miners at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Sunday, Oct. 10. (Hugo Infante / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A relative of one of the miners is hugged by a policeman after the drilling machine completed an escape hole at the mine on Oct. 9. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Workers of the T-130 drill celebrate in the arid Atacama desert on Oct. 9. The crew drilling with the T-130 drill, part of an effort dubbed "Plan B" - one of three shafts attempting to reach 33 miners trapped deep underground - finally made contact with the miners' shelter. (Francesco Degasperi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A clown named Rolly shows a flag that was sent by the 33 trapped miners as a gift at the camp where relatives wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The words on the flag read in Spanish, "A souvenir for clown Rolly, from the San Jose mine, thanks for making our children laugh." Thirty-three miners have been trapped deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A helmet sits on a rock covered with the names of the 33 miners trapped in the collapsed San Jose mine. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aurelia Navarro, a volunteer missionary, prays on Oct. 5 during a small ceremony marking the 60 days since miners became trapped. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A relative of one of the trapped miners writes a message on a Chilean national flag on Oct. 4. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A team tests a possible rescue capsule designed by the Chilean Army's Shipyards on Sept. 30. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Workers on Sept. 30 test a capsule that will be used to rescue trapped miners. (Chile's Presidency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A worker checks part of a drill pulled from Rigg 421 on Sept. 24 at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, where 33 miners remain trapped. (Ivan Alvarado / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Children play Oct. 2 as a worker hangs a sign identifying a module to be used as school room for relatives of the trapped Chilean miners trapped. Many of the families of the miners are living in what is called "Camp Esperanza" or "Camp Hope." (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Relatives of the trapped miners watch a video of them at the San Jose mine on Saturday, Sept. 18. (Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A crane lifts a capsule that will be used as part of rescue operation for the miners at the San Jose copper and gold mine on Saturday, Sept. 25. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nelly Bugueno, mother of trapped miner Victor Zamora, checks her cell phone as she walks past the tents where families of the 33 trapped miners are living as they await rescue on Friday. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Jesica Cortez, wife of Victor Zamora, one of the 33 miners trapped down in the shaft, rejoices as she reads a letter from her husband, at San Jose mine, near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, on Wednesday, Sept. 18. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Relatives of trapped miners Claudio Yanez and Dario Segovia write a message to them with painted stones outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Thursday, Sept. 23. (Photographer: Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Members of a folkloric ballet perform at the camp where relatives of trapped miners wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday Sept. 1. Thirty-three miners have been trapped alive deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A composite image captured from a video on Tuesday, Sept. 1 shows four of 33 trapped miners waving at mine San Jose, near of Copiapo, Chile. (Codelco / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A sample of what it will be the first hot meal the miners still trapped in the San Jose Mine will have since the accident, Tuesday, Sept. 1 near Copiapo, Chile. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Evangelic Minister Javier Soto dedicates one of the 33 mini-bibles that will be given to the miners trapped in the San Jose mine, Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. View of 33 Chilean national flags placed outside the San Jose mine by the relatives of the 33 trapped miners in Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A worker checks the drill machine digging an escape hole for the 33 miners trapped underground in a copper and gold mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Monday, Aug. 30. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Work to rescue the trapped miners continues on Aug. 30 at the mine, which is located 450 miles north of Santiago. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Samuel Avalo, left, and his wife Herminda Acuna, parents of Samuel Avalo Acuna, one of the trapped miners, sit outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, on Aug. 30. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Relatives of miners carry candles during a vigil outside the mine on Sunday, Aug. 29. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Trapped miners wave at a camera from underground on Aug. 29. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Chilean pianist Roberto Bravo performs during a show for the relatives of the trapped miners in Copiapo on Aug. 29. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Relatives of those trapped underground in a copper and gold mine gather around a screen showing the miners inside the mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Thursday, Aug. 26. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Marion Gallardo, the granddaughter of trapped miner Mario Gomez, writes a letter to her grandfather on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The 33 miners trapped in the San Esteban gold and copper mine in Copiapo, north of Santiago, since Aug. 5 say they are "enduring hell" underground, putting urgency into the rescue operation. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A combined photo shows the 33 miners trapped in the mine in Copiapo, Chile. (Diario Atacama / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Elias Sepulveda and her cousin Katherine embrace in front of a tribute to their relatives, Esteban Rojas and Pablo Rojas, two of the miners trapped in the collapsed mine. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. An officer stands in front of the machine that will be used to rescue the miners. The miners were trapped when the shaft they were working in collapsed. (Claudio Reyes / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Relatives of the trapped miners wave to rescue workers outside the collapsed mine. Rescue teams bored a small hole down more than 2,000 feet and used a video camera to confirm the miners were alive on Aug. 22. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Florencio Avalos, one of the trapped miners, is seen Aug. 23 in an image from video. The camera was lowered more than 2,000 feet into the copper and gold mine. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Lilianette Ramirez, wife of trapped miner Mario Gomez, holds a letter from her husband outside the mine on Aug. 23. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Relatives of trapped miners embrace after learning that the 33 miners were found alive Aug. 22. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Chilean workers operate a drilling machine at the San Esteban gold and copper mine on Aug. 17. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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