There are some events good or bad, which transcend national barriers. Walking on the moon, 9/11, the Asian Tsunami, some sporting events. Yesterday the whole world held its breath as they watched one of those events, as 33 men were delivered back to the world after more than 65 days underground. They travelled up through an unimaginably small constricted shaft crafted by human ingenuity and love - yes, there seemed to be an outpouring, a no-cost-spared unconditional love extended to the miners and their plight, which we all shared.
This was a thoroughly modern rescue, with Flickr sets of the miners as they emerged. We'd got to know the stories from a collective mugshot of the sort normally only seen on crimewatch. It was, as someone remarked, big brother, but this time, we care.
The story of the first isolated 17 days of the drama has yet to be told in detail, but it is clear that they must have had iron wills to eke out the small stores they had down there to keep themselves alive. The President (a billionaire! the BBC kept reporting, as though they thought he might have better things to do than to wait) was glowing with pride, as the men were brought up to the surface. Even the liguistically talented Tim of the BBC couldn't dent his joy, which seemed genuine and despite his job, unaffected.
I watched the rescue for hours at a time, crying and rejoicing with each man that was rescued, vicariously experiencing the rapture of the families whose men were returned from the depths below.
There are questions to be asked in the coming weeks about the dark record of mining around the world, the lack of health and safety protection in Chile, but in China and other countries too, but yesterday was pure celebration, that 33 men trapped underground were rescued because their families, Chile and the world wouldn't let them down and wouldn't leave them to their fate. I felt proud to be human, and that doesn't happen often.
Perhaps the President is right, and this event has put Chile on the map, so that Americans and Europeans don't vaguely indicate South America when asked where Chile is. Perhaps it has raised the profile of the country and of his presidency. I don't know, and I don't think that is important. For today is for celebrating, for hugging and appreciating your nearest and dearest... and seeking out those cool shades which made every one of them look like a film star, and not a trapped miner released to the surface. It is rumoured that the advertising value to Oakley shades is about 40 million dollars, and I shouldn't be the least surprised. On each occasion the BBC showed the mugshot of a Chilean miner before the disaster, and then the live footage showed someone -young, old and inbetween - whose appearance was radically improved, whether by loss of weight or the sunglasses, who looked amazing. If they don't suddenly become popular all over the world, I shall be very surprised.