He began to tell us about the serious mental and spiritual battle that understandably took place not only in the group but also in his heart. He held back tears as he described how he never lost hope in the refuge at a depth of 2,260 feet, and how, as a group, regardless of their faith or religion, they came to the logical conclusion that unless God performed a miracle, there was no way out.
The hope José had spoken about for years in the light seemed so relevant in the dark shadow of the mine.
The ever-smiling man explained how he organised daily prayers and attempted to keep up morale amongst the men anyway he could. Twice a day they would gather in a circle and pray, a space where each one of the miners could share their thoughts and where they began to ask God for a miracle.
The men had only three day’s worth of tinned supplies with them when the collapse occurred. Through careful and disciplined planning, they managed to ration the food to sixteen days. On the seventeenth day, not a moment too late, the miracle they had been praying for began to unfold. José explained how the men became aware of machinery overhead and knew that help was on the way. One of the rescue team’s probes successfully reached the miners, who were able to attach a note declaring, ‘All thirty-three of us are well inside the shelter.’ a note that José, in fact, has framed and mounted on his wall.
It took a further fifty-two days in total before the miners would see sunlight again, but in that time, through paloma supply tubes, they were sent notes, food, equipment, fresh water and home comforts.
What the thirty-three men weren’t aware of was the community and attention evolving above ground in what became known as Camp Hope. Schools were created for the miners’ children and families camped and ate together not wanting to leave their loved ones: whether sons, husbands, fathers, grandparents or dear friends.
Eventually, on the sixty-ninth day: 13 October 2010, the final man of the thirty-three, Luis Urzua, was winched through the escape shaft to safety at ground level. The unbelievable, exhaustive ordeal was finally concluded.