Five Years Later, Chilean Miners Recall How Faith Helped Them Survive

Luis Urzúa, the last miner to be rescued, celebrated with President Sebastián Piñera of Chile. (Alex Ibanez/Chilean Presidential Press Office, via Associated Press)
Luis Urzúa, the last miner to be rescued, celebrated with President Sebastián Piñera of Chile. (Alex Ibanez/Chilean Presidential Press Office, via Associated Press)

When Chile’s San Jose mine collapsed on August 5, 2010, people around the world were fixated on the fate of the 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground.

The miners would end up spending 69 days below the Earth’s surface before rescuers brought them all to safety. As everyone celebrated the rescue of the 33 miners, many pointed to a higher power — a 34th miner — who they say was with them all along.

In the aftermath of the rescue, those involved have recounted seemingly inexplicable miracles during their time underground and credited God with protecting them. God, many of them say, was the 34th miner.

A comforting presence

Jorge Galleguillos, a miner from Copiapo, Chile, recalled making the sign of the cross in front of an image of the Virgin Mary that had been placed near the entrance to the mine. The miners asked her for protection every shift before descending into the lower levels of the mine.

The day of the collapse, like any other day, Galleguillos paid his respects to the Virgin Mary and headed into the mine.

During this particular shift, Galleguillos said he heard warning cracks but continued working. He recalled seeing something like a “white species … a butterfly” falling diagonally in the mine “like a paper.”

It was likely a bit of white quartz, but in local culture, a white animal is a sign that God is present.

As the mine began to rumble and dust filled the air, Galleguillos said he envisioned his 6-day-old grandson in his arms and his mother standing in front of him.

“I am not going to see my mother again. I’m not going to meet my grandson,” he thought.

Galleguillos said he is not particularly religious. Still, even as it seemed the worst was ahead, he said he felt God’s presence.

In the five years since the mine collapse, Galleguillos said he is more thankful than ever.

“There aren’t words to continue thanking God enough,” he told CNN’s Rosa Flores in a recent interview.

A rationing of resources

Alex Vega, a second-generation miner, had been suffering from a gastric ulcer for a couple of months when the miners became trapped.

As always, he had his pills in his backpack. Three of them. He divided them into four parts each so he could take a piece each day.

The fact that there was very little food only made his symptoms worse, and at this point, they had no idea when or if they would be rescued.

The miners ate one can of tuna per day, splitting each can between the 33 of them.

“You have to have faith,” Galleguillos said. “You can never lose your faith. Faith is nourishment … Faith is life.”

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SOURCE: CNN
Sarah Butler

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