The rescue of 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground for 69 days was bound to attract attention, but the worldwide interest in the operation has made it a perhaps surprising global phenomenon. Perhaps people were hungry for a happy ending in a world in which unhappy endings are all too common. Perhaps people are eager to acknowledge competence and dedication in putting together an enormously complex operation that could have gone wrong in dozens of ways. In Chile we have seen what appears to have been a careful, thoughtful process of consideration of alternatives and development of plans that was open to — indeed, welcomed — input from those who had relevant knowledge, no matter where in the world they lived.
International attention, of course, is partially spurred by technology — events can be broadcast more instantaneously worldwide than ever before — and by the ability of most people to imagine themselves in difficult circumstances and to wonder how ordinary people will respond to adversity. It is also spurred by the fact that companies from around the world contributed tools and specialized knowledge to the effort.
Beyond these factors, however, the mine disaster tugged at human heartstrings at a much more fundamental level. Who could not be moved to laughter and tears by the exuberant emergence of miner after miner, laughing and hugging loved ones, celebrating their good fortune and acknowledging the untiring efforts of thousands of people who made the rescue possible? Who was not pleased that instead of chaos and infighting we saw order and discipline emerge almost spontaneously among the miners? There may be physical and psychological problems to come for these brave men, but they have handled their adversity admirably. And most people can sense and acknowledge admirable behavior.
It is not irrelevant that Chile beginning in the 1980s passed a number of free-market-oriented reforms that secured property rights and led to reform of the country's old-age social security system. As a result, Chile has experienced remarkable economic growth that helped in establishing an industrial infrastructure able to employ advanced technology and residual wealth to weather natural and man-made disasters. A series of left-oriented political leaders has left those reforms in place because they worked.
Now that the 33rd miner has reached the surface, Chile deserves enormous respect for the way it has handled this disaster.