It is a generally held belief that the news media is not overly interested in good news. One wouldn’t think so from the way in which the rescue of 33 Chilean miners has been covered. Few people would have associated Chile with mining until the accident on August 5th, but Chile is the world’s single biggest single producer of mined copper.
This was not the first time that the San José de Copiaco mine had been the site of a disaster. An average of 34 people have died in mining accidents in Chile over the last ten years and the San Esteban Company that owns the San José mine has had more accidents than many with three deaths in the last seven years. One miner lost a leg in a accident that happened just a month before this most recent incident.
No news was received from the workers trapped 700 metres below the surface until 17 days had passed. The first communication from the miners was a note attached to a drill bit which the rescuers were surprised to find when they withdrew the drill. Subsequently video cameras were able to transmit the good news that the 33 men were all alive and well. However, a rescue was still a long way off.
Initially it was suggested that it could take until December to bore a hole big enough to bring the men out. Yet despite one or two hiccups, the miners were all brought home over the course of 36 hours on 13th/14th October.
While it might seem that ‘bad news travels fast’, good news – or rather news of that which is lost having been found travels pretty quickly too. 88 years ago, people had to read about the sinking of the RMS Titanic in newspapers days after the event, while we were able to watch the raising of the 33 miners live on the 24 hour news channels. The hourly adding to the number that were saved acted as an antidote to the usual ‘voting off’ on reality TV and it caught public imagination in the UK and around the world as TV stations sent news crews hunting for maps of Chile so they could find their way to Copiaco.
This idea that good news doesn’t interest the public and therefore the news media doesn’t hold water when it comes to finding people who have been lost. Tony Bullimore was a single-handed ocean sailor whose boat capsized south west of Australia during the Vendee Globe Round the World Race in 1996. Having been missing for 5 days, he was discovered under the overturned hull of his boat by an Australian Navy vessel close to the point when all hope had been lost. When John McCarthy, Brian Keenan and Terry Waite were freed from captivity in Lebanon, it was an event greeted with national celebration.
Celebration has been evident at the pit head at the San José mine and in the town of Copiaco. The Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera, together with the First Lady, were present at the mine during the rescue and after the miners were all safely out, he declared a national day of celebration.
It isn’t hard to see in this good news story an echo of the Good News story that is presented to us in the Bible. Much of what happened at Copiaco is reminiscent of the stories of losing and finding in Luke 15. In the parables Jesus told in which a woman found a lost coin, a shepherd, a lost sheep and a father, a lost son, a major factor is celebration. In the same way that President declared that the nation should celebrate, so also the father wanted everyone to share in his joy at finding his son. In this story, Jesus taught how it was God’s purpose that Jesus had come to seek and to save the lost and when someone who was lost is found there is rejoicing in heaven.
The Copiaco rescue had another parallel with the Christian story. This is that the first person to try out the narrow Phoenix rescue capsule was one of the rescuers, Manuel González Pavez. So here we had a real life re-enactment of the way in which God has reached down, not with a rope and bucket, but in his Son, who came not just to show us the way, but to take that path for himself.
The rescue is a great story and it points us towards another great story – the Good News of God’s rescue of all humanity.