A few words of hope on a scrap of paper were shown by Chile’s president proving that the 33 missing miners were alive.
Relieved relatives had feared the worst for 17 days.
Images of the men 700 metres below ground showed them in good shape and immediately a rescue plan was hatched with three drills boring their way, day and night through the rock.
October 9 and plan B drill broke through the roof of the chamber where the men had been surviving for over two months.
The next step was a specially designed capsule, barely broader than a man’s shoulders was prepared to descend the narrow escape shaft.
It was bound to be a claustrophobic and dangerous trip but the first man to be put inside the cage dubbed the ‘Phoenix’ was technician Manuel Gonzalez.
His job was to go down to prepare the men for their trip to freedom. His arrival in the bowels of the earth marked the first human contact for the miners with someone from the surface since their ordeal began.
Chile held its breath for the moment the country had waited for – the first man to be rescued – father of two Florencio Avalos who was met by cheers and tears.
From then on Phoenix was lowered and raised until its job was done. But if anyone thought that 69 days of being trapped deep inside the earth would force some of the men to lose their exuberance, one just had to witness the emergence of Mario Sepulveda.