As I begin this post, Dario Segovia, the 20th of 33 miners rescued after 68 days trapped in the Chilean underground, is nestled in the NASA-design rescue capsule (dubbed Fenix). He’s heading toward freedom at a rate of 2-3 feet per second.
I currently have CNN’s live feed running under my various work projects, and every 30 minutes or so (more frequently now that rescue operation becomes more confident) a smattering of applause and the cry of “Chi-Chi-Chi Le-Le-Le”, prompts me to pull up that buried window hoping to catch the unparalleled vision of a man seeing daylight for the first time in over two months. All day I’ve reveled in that overwhelming moment when a family took their loved one into their arms after so long. I get a little misty-eyed. Yes, I am a sucker for a good human interest story.
A NEW TYPE OF MEDIA
Coverage of a dramatic rescue is far from unprecedented, but the use of technology and social media in tracking these events moment-to-moment is part of a larger trend that we’ve now seen in Haiti, Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan. The big difference? This time we’re seeking good news.
Millions of people worldwide have been glued to live news feeds; both on television and the internet – for over 16 hours, all of us watching a “miracle” unfold. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been filled with comments about the rescue; most often referring to people’s emotional reactions at seeing the men tearfully reunited with their family.
FROM OLD COMMUNICATION TO NEW
Over 1,000 new tweets referencing the miners were posted on Twitter in the time it took me to write this article. Dozens of “Chilean Miners” Facebook pages have been “liked” by over 7,500 people; including over 90 who have vowed to buy the Chilean miners a pint when they get out – an offer that would, I imagine, be very well received by the men at this point.
While the first communication from the miners was as old-fashioned as it gets – a short note (Estamos bien en el refugio los 33) written in red ink and tied to a probe sent down from the surface; soon the miners were creating short video segments with cameras provided to them and narrating their incredible experiences.
Technology offered the men an invaluable connection to the outside world and surely helped to keep them psychologically stable. Consider this:
- On September 15th Ariel Tacona witnessed the birth of his 3rd child, Esperanza (meaning Hope) via a fiber optic video link and the mine echoed with the cheers of the celebrating miners.
- Another miner, Estiban Rojas proposed to his long-time partner via a note that read “When I get out, buy the dress, we’ll get married. He later repeated his sentiments via a communication line that gave the miners face time with loved ones for a brief 20 seconds each.
These moments that have sharpened the human element of this story, further entrancing their worldwide viewers, telling their story even before they’ve been saved.
2047 FEET BELOW
News coverage of the rescue has paired talking heads from around the globe with incredible live shots from 2,047 feet underground. Viewers got to peer through the darkness to watch in real-time as the miners carefully prepared each man for his turn to rise in the Fenix. The experience was made all the more thrilling by the media outlets lack of forewarning that the underground live feed would be shown.
The Fenix capsule has just broken the surface. Dario emerges, drops to his knees in prayer and embraces his wife for a long time, the blue of his helmet and her cardigan blending together before the cloudless Chilean sky. It’s an emotional scene.
But the drama’s not over yet. The next scheduled rescue is Yonni Barrios, a man with conundrum awaiting him above ground. The crisis has made famous not only how distraught his wife has been, but also his mistress… Twitter should have a field day with that.