Miners visit as US museum readies rescue exhibit

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The Independent Culture

Four Chilean miners visited the Museum of Natural History in the US capital on Wednesday to open an exhibit about their daring rescue from deep inside a copper and gold mine a year ago.

Mario Sepulveda, Jorge Galleguillos, Jose Henriquez and Carlos Barrios were among the 33 miners trapped 700 meters below the earth's surface for 69 days in northern Chile's San Jose mine.

The miners were given up for dead after a cave-in, but when they were found miraculously alive, they still had to endure a lengthy wait as rescuers frantically drilled a shaft wide enough to pull them out.

The men were eventually pulled up, one by one, inside a narrow metal capsule.

A prototype of the capsule is on display at the exhibit, titled "Against All Odds: Rescue at the Chilean Mine."

"This was the worst experience that I've had in my life," said Sepulveda, the second miner pulled to the surface. "Our dreams were all left down there."

Life after the rescue - and the transition from anonymous laborers to global media celebrities - has presented its own challenges for the rescued miners.

"My routine was getting up early, at 5:00 am, taking the bus at six, and returning home at nine at night. I'd eat, and then go off to bed," said Galleguillos.

"It has been very difficult for me, especially since I'm not accustomed to this," he said, referring to the constant presence of TV cameras trailing the miners.

Abroad, the miners are treated like heroes - but in Chile, there is jealousy, Galleguillos said.

"Everyone thinks that we're loaded with money now. We've suffered a lot more than people realize," said Sepulveda. "I have bad memories. I wish it hadn't happened."

Henriquez insisted that the miners were not heroes.

"If there was a hero, it was the spirit of God, who kept us united," he said.

To keep their spirits up, Henriquez read a passage from the Bible to his trapped comrades every day. The Bible is on loan for the exhibit.

Other items on display include miners' helmets, rock samples from inside the mine, a drill bit used to bore the shaft from which they were rescued and a Chilean flag signed by all 33 miners.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, one year after the cave-in.