I am so happy about the miners’ safe escape in Chile that I started crying when I heard the news. (Or rather, started to read it late last night, checked it first thing in the morning, and couldn’t believe how happy and relieved I am. The tears came when I saw they’d been rescued by the time I woke up.)
What an amazing effort, on the part of a whole nation, international collaboration, an unbelievable group underground, and general rooting for them worldwide. What a relief not only for their safety but for the fact that we, humankind, can still pull off something that requires so much careful coordination, unity, perseverance, and optimism. Is this what made me cry?
This isn’t to say I’m not disturbed by the fact that this situation could have happened in the first place, or that it’s in any way acceptable that it took an event of this magnitude to force Chile’s president to address mine safety and regulations in a forceful way. As someone whose ancestors are from central and Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, this hits close to home, and I couldn’t help thinking of the tragedies that we still see in the United States in this area of the country. We should take this to heart and keep the focus on safety for our mines and miners – not simply mourning periodic “tragedies” (as though they have no causes) and maintaining attitudes that it could happen any time, that it comes with the territory, that we must be resigned to half-expecting miners to not come home on any given day. It’s unacceptable. (And I’m talking not just about political or national attitudes, but those that are prevalent within local communities. I know it’s entrenched and has persisted since there was a mining industry in the United States, but that doesn’t make it any more okay.)
At the end of the day, I’m overjoyed at this success and the truly unbelievable strength and optimism of these 33 men, but I’m afraid that the celebratory fever will free us to let ourselves off the hook in expecting accountability, now and in the future.