Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trapped Chile miners bring perspective to life

We all have bad days. Sometimes we have bad weeks. During particularly lousy stretches, we can even have a bad month.

Well, how about having four bad months? For 33 unfortunate miners in Chile, the next few months are likely to be agonizing.

Early last month, the miners were involved in an underground collapse and initially, there were fears that they were all dead. However, 17 days later, contact was made with them, and they seem in reasonably good condition considering the circumstances.

While this is tremendous news, officials have estimated that it could take up to four months to get them out. Some geologists speculate that it will not take that long, but the official government position is that it could take until the end of the year.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be in their shoes. First, there is the pain they must be feeling because they are separated from their friends and family.

Luckily, they are not alone underground, but the camaraderie the miners feel together cannot replace the warmth of their loved ones.

In addition to the separation, the unhealthy surroundings they find themselves in have to be unpleasant. Mines are basically man-made caves so these people are likely getting a crash course on how to live like a bat. The only caves I have been in are natural ones, and when I exited them, I marveled at how exciting it was to see the sun again.

In addition to the general unpleasantness of being in a mine, they are doing without the basic necessities of life.

For example, they likely do not have access to something as simple as a hot shower. A hot shower and a clean shave can bring a man back to life. Without it, well, I think we all get the picture.

Additionally, what kind of diet and exercise pattern are they getting? Issues like this hint that these people are looking at serious long-term health consequences if they are not delivered from their situation soon.

Still, the more I think about this situation, the more I think about the simple aspects of life these people will miss. With the holiday season approaching, the miners must be discouraged that they might not spend Christmas with their loved ones.

True, I am sure they will get to be with them in some indirect way. There is communication between the mine and people outside. However, I doubt it is anywhere near the same as being with somebody.

Imagine the emotional thoughts these people must be having. I am sure all the miners have thought that it is unbelievable that there is not a more efficient rescue plan. In a sense, this is a lot like the oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico.

Except this time, it is taking months to save human lives instead of stopping oil. I do not know what the labor laws are in Chile, but I am guessing that these people will have grounds for a whopper of a lawsuit. What is the cost for 33 people to spend time underground against their will for four months?

The bottom line is that this is another example of how lives can dramatically change. When these miners went to work on the day of the accident, I am sure it was just another day.

The same can happen to us. One minute we are doing our jobs then some catastrophe occurs that changes all the rules of the game.

If nothing else, this is a reminder of how each day is precious. If yesterday was a normal day, there is no guarantee today will be normal, too.

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