Copiapo, Chile — Some gave thumbs-up, waved Chilean flags, and hugged their loved ones. One dropped to his knees and prayed, Another asked about his dog. One led the crowd in a cheer for Chile. And they were wheeled away on stretchers.
These are how the Chilean miners emerging from the dark San Jose mine for more than two months savored the first moments above ground.
The first miner to reach the surface, Florencio Avalos, beamed and hugged everyone around him as he walked on the earth’s surface for the first time in 69 days. He took a few moments to embrace his weeping family before he was taken away for medical evaluation amid cheers.
As the second miner, Mario Sepulveda, exited the rescue hole, he reached into a large yellow bag and handed out what appeared to be rocks to officials and rescue workers. Sepulveda cracked jokes in his first moments above ground and led the crowd in a cheer for Chile. As the 40-year-old was hauled away on a stretcher for his medical evaluation, he asked his wife, “How’s the dog?”
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Juan Illanes, an electrical mechanic retired from the Chilean military, beamed from behind his dark sunglasses when he became the third miner to be rescued. Like the other rescued miners, Illanes wore eye protection to protect against lighting contrasts. His letters to his wife have displayed humor and optimism.
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