Peter Stanford: A triumph of hope over despair that moved us all

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Usually the TV set is out of bounds for our children on school-day mornings, but for once it was me forcing them to switch on so as to see the first of the Chilean miners emerge from their underground hell. And as we watched, gripped by the human drama of it all, I blubbed – like an awful lot of others I have since spoken to.

But what is it about the rescue of 33 complete strangers in a remote corner of a country on the other side of the world that is so engaging? Had the 33 miners died in the rockfall that stranded them, it would have made a paragraph and scarcely have held our interest for a second. Yet here we all are transfixed by a miracle.

The religious language, for once, doesn't seem inappropriate. As the men have emerged there is something of Lazarus risen from the dead about them. But it goes so much further. Most of us have, these past two months, tried and failed to imagine what it must have been like to be buried alive, fearing at any moment another shudder that will crush their hopes.

The miners' resurrection carries with it all sorts of symbolism, and all of it positive. We, as individuals, or indeed collectively as the human race, are only able to do too little, too late for the victims of natural disasters and wars around the globe, but here, for once, is a hellish situation where there is a solution. Science, technology, and ingenuity have provided an answer. Here we are, taking on the capriciousness and cruelty of the elements, and emerging victorious.

And then there is the uplifting sight of families reunited and of the global TV audience willing those men to survive. It is a happy ending, yes, but more than that, it is a victory, on every level, for humanity. And there are precious few of those these days.

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