In the Suburbs / Just like miners, Thai boys are free
“They’re out!” That news came across loud and clear this past Tuesday morning, just as I was leaving my gym. The last two boys of the 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach had been rescued and a more-than-two-week nightmare had ended happily at the mouth of the cave in Thailand that could have become a tomb.
The dramatic rescue of these young men, like the bold rescue of the Chilean miners in 2010 after 10 weeks, became another worldwide mission of hope for all of us and I know that tears of joy were surely being shed as the last two boys and their coach were brought out the of cave. From reports, all that the boys wanted was real food and to know the score of the World Cup competition.
At one point, FIFA, the organization responsible for the World Cup, extended an invitation for the boys to attend the final games, but their doctors politely declined the request. Many of the boys shared that the only reason they believed they survived was the faith they had in their coach, a former Buddhist monk.
From the little research I did about this expedition, I learned that the boys soccer coach Ekkapol “Aek” Chanthawong, a former monk and a new coach for the team, was trying to do a team-building exercise by having the boys explore some two miles into the cave and carve their initials. “On June 23,” according to various news reports, the group” (of soccer players and their coach)”set out on their mission—a 45-minute ride from their school to the cave.”
Meanwhile, the head coach of the team did not know where the boys and their coach were going but he said that he trusted them. The head coach didn’t go along because he had an appointment . He explained, according to the news story, that only when he turned his phone back on and retrieved his messages did he realize something had gone “terribly wrong. “
Apparently when the boys were already deep in the cave, the skies had opened up with a heavy rain that filled the tunnels with water and cut off the boys’ and their coach’s escape route.” All that the head coach found at the entrance to the cave, was water pouring out of the opening and the boys’ bags and bicycles. When he realized that the group was trapped in the cave that coach called for an international rescue operation.
A week later the boys and their coach were discovered alive, according to news sources, “They were deep from the cave’s entrance and huddled on a 10 square mile ledge.”
The cave is part of the “notorious Tham Luang cave system—Thailand’s longest with a series of tunnels slippery rocks and cliffs with stark drop offs shrouded in darkness—during the country’s wet season.
The miracle behind the whole intricate rescue of these 12 young men, was the plan that had to be developed, because the boys, many of whom could not swim, would have to swim like pencils, accompanied by two divers, nearly 2 miles through narrow caverns of water and sharp rocks. One opening was no wider than the body of a young wiry boy. I heard the width was barely 15 inches.
Meanwhile, one of the Chilean Miners Who Was Trapped For 10 Weeks In 2010 offered words Of support For The Team. Omar Reygadas, one of 33 miners who were trapped 2,300 feet underground for 10 weeks when their mine collapsed in 2010, told the Associated Press that the key to survival to “think only about leaving and reuniting with their families.”
“It’s terrible for them — they’re little — but I believe that boys with a lot of strength are going to manage to be whole when they get out,” Reygadas said. He recalled times when he and his fellow miners doubted they would be rescued. Faith, prayer and humor kept them sane, he said. “It’s terrible for them—-they’re little—but I believe that boys with a lot of strength are going to manage to be whole when they get out,” Reygadas said.
I saw so many parallels between these two rescues, but most importantly, each required intricate plans to ensure not only a safe rescue of the victims, but also for the safety of the rescuers. As time continued to run out, the rescuers seemed to develop more energy and spirit.
And today, as the last members of the soccer team and their coach emerged from the cave, people around the world cried with joy like they did in 2010.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.