Video: Still in spotlight, miners see bright new day

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    >> reporter: the picture an entire nation waited more than two months to see. all 33 miners alive and well , and free. mean while, outside the regional hospital today, a swarm of onlookers and cameras from all over the world, waited to catch a glimpse of chile's new heroes. and standing in the crowd, a group of teenage girls . hoping to see 19-year-old jimmy sanchez, their newest idol. asked about all the attention rescued miner richard says, it makes you want to cry.

    >> i think they're more anxious to get out from the hospital than they were from the mine.

    >> reporter: inside, family members anxiously waited to see their loved ones. this, after celebrations broke out in chile streets last night. thousands cheering along a parade route of ambulances transporting the 33 miners to the hospital. they were wheeled in like rock stars still wearing their sunglasses. greeted by a flurry of camera flashes. he was the ship leader, and the last miner out in a successful rescue that took less than 24 hours . he surfaced 12 minutes after climbing into the capsule, marking the end of a 70-day nightmare. chile's president told him, your shift is done. i congratulate you. you did your duty and came out last, like a good captain always does. they sang the official song of the miners, with their helmets over their hearts. deep in the mine, before climbing into the capsule themselves, the rescuers

msnbc.com news services
updated 10/15/2010 1:11:39 AM ET 2010-10-15T05:11:39

The first three miners left the hospital late Thursday night as all now known as "los 33" began their unfamiliar new lives as national heroes.

Chilean TV showed miner Edison Pena, plucked 12th from the cavern where they were trapped for more than two months a half mile underground, getting out of the hospital in Copiapo first.

All three miners, still wearing their shades, piled into an SUV bound for home, smiling and waving.

"I didn't think I'd make it back, so this reception really blows my mind," said Pena, 34, as waiting neighbors showered him with confetti whe he arrived home. Triathlete Pena ran 6 miles a day down in the mine tunnel in the days after the collapse to cope with the stress.

"We really had a bad time," he added, before ducking into his home and closing the front door.

The other two released Thursday were Juan Illanes and Carlos Mamani, NBC News said.

"This is really incredible. It hasn't sunk in," said Illanes, 52, amid roaring cheers.

He said being trapped after the cave-in had taken him "to the limit."

All the miners got tastes of what awaits: swarms of reporters, TV producers, publicity agents and even soccer teams all desperate for a piece of their story.

The men posed in hospital bathrobes for a group photo with President Sebastian Pinera.

Unity helped the men for 69 days underground, including more than two weeks when no one knew whether they were alive.

But the moment they walk out the hospital doors, they'll go beyond the reach of a government operation that has cared for, fed and protected them in a carefully coordinated campaign to ensure each of them would leave in top condition.

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"Now they're going to have to find their equilibrium and take care of themselves," the hospital chaplain, the Rev. Luis Lopez, told The Associated Press.

They got quite the preview Thursday of what lies ahead. On their first full day of fresh air, the miners were probably the 33 most in-demand people on the planet.

A Greek mining company wants to bring them to the sunny Aegean islands, competing with rainy Chiloe in the country's southern archipelago, whose tourism bureau wants them to stay for a week.

Story: Showers of offers for Chile miners

Soccer teams in Madrid, Manchester and Buenos Aires want them in their stadiums. Bolivia's president wants them at his palace. TV host Don Francisco wants them all on his popular "Sabado Gigante" show in Miami.

Hearing that miner Edison Pena jogged regularly in the tunnels below the collapsed rock, the New York City marathon invited him to participate in next month's race.

What about a reality show? Some other kind of TV work? Why not, said television writer-producer and Oscar nominee Lionel Chetwynd, who said he expected projects were being pitched around Hollywood within hours of the rescue.

"Television is a quick-response medium," he said, joking: "In fact, I think I'll call my agent when we get off the phone."

Video: Anatomy of a successful rescue (on this page)

Doctors said the other miners would get out of the hopital Friday and over the weekend.

Their families and friends were organizing welcome-home dinners, street celebrations and even weddings. Lilianett Ramirez, whose husband Mario Gomez promised her a church wedding in the "Dear Lila" letter Pinera read on TV when the men were found alive, said they have now set a date: "If God and the Virgin desire it, we'll get married on Nov. 7, his birthday," she said, beaming as she left the hospital.

The government promised six months of psychological treatment, made sure each has a bank account only he can operate, and coached them on dealing with rude questions.

The rescue team even asked Guinness World Records to honor all 33 with the record for longest time trapped underground, rather than the last miner out, Luis Urzua. Guinness spokeswoman Jamie Panas said the organization was studying the question.

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The men certainly have an extraordinary story to tell. No one before them had been trapped so long and survived.

Pinera also was defining face of the rescue, embracing Luis Urzua when he climbed out of the pod to become the 33rd miner out, then leading a joyous crowd in the national anthem.

"They have experienced a new life, a rebirth," he said, and so has Chile: "We aren't the same that we were before the collapse on Aug. 5. Today Chile is a country much more unified, stronger and much more respected and loved in the entire world."

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician also promised "radical" changes and tougher safety laws to improve how businesses treat their workers.

"Never again in our country will we permit people to work in conditions so unsafe and inhuman as they worked in the San Jose mine, and in many other places in our country," said Pinera, who took office in March as Chile's first elected right-wing president in a half-century.

Among the most compelling stories from the ordeal will be Urzua's. He was the shift foreman when 700,000 tons of rock sealed them in. It was his strict rationing of the 48-hour food supply that helped them stay alive until help came.

Early reports on their food supply were based on memories and partial information from down below. Based on new details the miners shared Thursday with their families, the rationing appears to have been even more extreme than previously thought.

"He told me they only had 10 cans of tuna to share, and water, but it isn't true the thing about milk, because it was bad, out of date," Alberto Sepulveda said after visiting his brother Dario.

Story: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

Other family members were told the tuna amounted to about half a capful from the top of a soda bottle — and that the only water they could drink tasted of oil.

"I think he was a fundamental pillar that enabled them to keep discipline," said Manuel Gonzalez, the first rescuer down and the last to leave.

"The guys that were down there, I think they never lost their hope," he added. "There were critical moments, but at the end they never lost their hope because they had very positive leaders who kept the group unified."

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"We don't see any problems of a psychological or a medical nature," said Dr. Jorge Montes, deputy director of the Copiapo Regional Hospital.

"We were completely surprised," added Health Minister Jaime Manalich. "Any effort we could have made doesn't explain the health condition these people have today."

The miners told relatives Thursday that their rescue ride was as smooth as a skyscraper elevator. The rescue was planned with extreme care, with plans to monitor the miners by video on the way up for signs of panic, provide them with oxygen masks and dark glasses to protect their eyes, and sweaters for the jarring transition from subterranean swelter to chilly desert air.

At the last minute, rescuers abandoned the in-capsule camera and fiber-optic cable it required as unnecessary complexity. The men said they would be fine, and just wanted out, said Fabricio Morales, technician with Micomo, the telecommunications division of Codelco.

The cause of the Aug. 5 collapse at the San Jose Mine awaits a formal investigation, but the miners' families said they knew it was overexploited and increasingly dangerous, and went in anyway for the slightly higher wages, about $1,600 a month.

Descending for 4 miles (7 kilometers) below the Atacama desert, the mine has been giving up copper and gold since 1885, leaving it honeycombed and unstable.

The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft finally collapsed above them, filling the lower reaches of the mine with suffocating dust. It took hours before they could even begin to see.

Why any of them would go back underground may be hard for outsiders to understand. But most of these men have done it all their lives, and so have their relatives in Copiapo, a gritty, blue-collar city where street vendors hawk Chilean flags bearing the faces of "Los 33."

Dario Sepulveda's family wants him to stop working the mines, but they haven't discussed it yet.

"We're giving him time for all that," Alberto Sepulveda said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Rescue

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  1. Relatives of the 33 Chilean miners celebrate after the rescue of the last miner in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday, Oct. 13. The 33 miners had been trapped 700 meters underground since Aug. 5. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rescue workers hold a sign reading "Mission Accomplished Chile" after the last of the 33 trapped miners, Luis Urzua, was lifted from the mine in the Fenix 2 capsule Wednesday. (TVN CHILE) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Chileans celebrate after the last miner was rescued in Copiapo, on Wednesday. The extraordinary two-month survival story many called a 'miracle,' triggered wild celebrations. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Chilean trapped miners gather inside the San Jose mine as the rescue operation starts in Copiapo on October 13, 2010, in this handout photo by the Chilean navy. (Armada De Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The last miner to be rescued, Luis Urzua, who is credited with organizing the miners to ration food and save themselves, celebrates next to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, at right, at the end of the rescue operation at San Jose mine in Copiapo, Wednesday. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Chilean trapped miner Luis Urzua, right, who was shift leader when the San Jose mine collapsed in early August, poses next to a rescuer before the start of the operation to hoist them to safety from the mine in Copiapo on October 13, in this handout photo from the Chilean navy. (Armada De Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. People celebrate the end of the successful rescue operation to free 33 trapped miners from the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday. (Martin Mejia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Miner Franklin Lobos, a former professional soccer player, receives a ball as a gift from Chile's President Sebastian Pinera after Lobos became the 27th miner to be rescued from the San Jose mine. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Esteban Rojas, 44, kneels in prayer after stepping out from the rescue capsule and becoming the 18th miner to be rescued on Wednesday at the San Jose mine. (Hugo Infante / Chilean Government via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Raul Bustos, the 30th miner to be rescued, is carried away by stretcher. (Handout / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Franklin Lobos greets a relative after being rescued from the San Jose mine. (Handout / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Roxana Gomez, daughter of rescued miner Mario Gomez, cries as she watches the rescue of her father on a TV screen at the relatives camp outside the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Miner Alex Vega reacts show off his t-shirt after being rescued from the mine near Copiapo, Chile on Wednesday. (Hugo Infante / Chilean Government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Relatives of Chilean miner Victor Zamora watch a TV broadcast of his rescue operation taking place at the San Jose mine. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The oldest of the trapped miners, Claudio Mario Gomez, 59, celebrates as he becomes the ninth to exit the rescue capsule on Wednesday, near Copiapo, Chile. (Chilean Government via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Roxana Gomez, center, daughter of miner Mario Gomez, and Maria Segovia, right, sister of trapped miner Dario Segovia, react while watching the rescue operations on TV. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Miner Claudio Yanez applauds as medics carry him away on a stretcher after his rescue from the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine early Wednesday. (Hugo Infante / Chilean government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Miner Osman Araya, right, greets his wife, Angelica Ancalipe, early Wednesday, moments after he was rescued from the collapsed mine where he had been trapped with 32 others for more than two months. (Hugo Infante / Chilean government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. People watching a large screen in a public square in Copiapo celebrate as Mario Sepulveda becomes the second miner to reach the surface. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Miner Mario Sepulveda celebrates after emerging from the rescue capsule. (Hugo Infante / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. People watching television screens in Copiapo celebrate as they watch the first miner to be rescued, Florencio Avalos, emerging safely. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera embraces rescued miner Florencio Avalos, left, after his rescue. (Jose Manuel De La Maza / Chilean / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The capsule that is being used to bring the trapped miners to the surface is moved into position at the start of the operation. (David Mercado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, center, observes as the rescue capsule is lowered into the shaft for its final test. (Hugo Infante / Gov. Of Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Miners greet rescuer Manuel Gonzalez after he arrives at the base of the shaft. (TVN CHILE) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Relatives and friends of the trapped miners celebrate while watching the rescue of Florencio Avalos on a television screen at a camp outside the mine. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A man clasps his hands together as if in prayer as he watches the rescue operation on a large screen in Copiapo. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Relatives of the 33 Chilean miners celebrate after the arrival of Luiz Urzúa, the last miner of the group,
    Ian Salas / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (27) Rescue brings joy to families and nation - Rescue
  2. Image: Relatives of trapped miner
    Natacha Pisarenko / AP
    Slideshow (40) Rescue brings joy to families and nation - Cave in
  3. Image: Relatives of trapped miner
    Natacha Pisarenko / AP
    Slideshow (40) Chilean mine collapse

Gallery: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

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

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