The Moment

8|22|10: Chile

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The message from the depths was brief, but few epics have begun with such drama. "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" ("All 33 of us in the shelter are O.K."). On Aug. 5, 33 men were working the San José gold and copper mine in northern Chile when its roof collapsed. Two weeks would pass before rescuers drilled into a spot 2,300 ft. (701 m) below the surface, where it was hoped the men had found the 500-sq.-ft. (46 sq m) space designated as a refuge in case of disaster. They were there, crammed in but alive, disciplined by exigency to subsist on tiny rations of tuna, biscuits and sips of milk. The world marveled, but the emotions were overwhelming in their own country. Copper miners, the saying goes, pay many a salary in Chile, which has the greatest reserves of the metal on the planet. Yet the epic has only begun. It may take four months of delicately calculated drilling before the men can be rescued. In the meantime, they must be fed and supplied and counseled in their underground prison. Will bodies buckle? Will sanity hold? Will all of the 33 emerge, like Dante from the inferno, once again to see sky and stars?