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It wasn’t an ordinary lifeboat. It was a small lunch room 2300 feet below the surface of the Atacama desert and 3 miles from the nearest mine entrance. It was a dark, dank and cold cave and there was only a few days’ worth of food. And no one, above or below ground, knew exactly where it was.

Thirty-three copper miners ran for that lunch room, their only “safe” place as the Copiapo copper mine collapsed on them. There they endured 69 days until they were rescued.

They gauged their food and parsed it out so that each man received a mouthful each day. They lost an average of 30 pounds each. They assigned themselves tasks to hold back despair and keep busy, and once surface communications were established, they notified the rescuers of their condition and sent notes to their families.

They had no idea if they would survive or how long it would be. They clung to a very slender hope of rescue as they sickened and weakened. Over their heads, five nations joined in attempts to reach them, and met failure time and again as they tried to penetrate some of the hardest rock on earth.

But these men never threw anyone out of their lifeboat. They didn’t fight over food or water. They may have had their quarrels, but they never had a real fight. They pulled together, they went hungry, and each man’s life was treated as being as important as the rest.

They cared for each other constantly, helping one another to deal with isolation, the fear, the hypothermia, the hunger. They’d have had plenty of justification for deciding that some were expendable to feed the rest, but they never made that choice or even had that discussion.

Thirty-three miners reached a cave, and thirty-three miners emerged 69 days later.

We humans don’t throw each other out of the lifeboat.

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