In an environment of 24/7 news driven by “hot-takes” and political acrimony, the rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from a Thai cave provides a redemptive moment for humanity.
The AP, citing Thai government officials and rescue coordinators, announced this morning that all of the trapped team members, their coach, and the doctors and divers who were caring for them, have exited the cave. The boys will spend a week or more in the hospital being treated for dehydration, oxygen deprivation, and malnutrition as well as the psychological effects of their ordeal. The rescuers, meanwhile, deserve worldwide recognition. We should also pause to remember Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL who died while ferrying supplies to the trapped boys.
This rescue is a brilliant testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The coach managed to keep the boys together in dark, flooding caves, preventing panic that could have led to tragedy. The team clung to a small rock ledge in the gloomy damp, confident that they could and would be rescued. Rescue teams from around the world sprang into action within hours of learning of the team’s plight. They could not know if they would find any, much less all, of the boys alive. Political disagreements received not a whit of attention as teams with widely different languages, skill sets, and technology banded together with a single goal: save the boys. It was the British dive team of Richard Stanton and John Volanthen who found the boys, providing video that reassured the world that all twelve of the youths and their coach were indeed alive. To quote their footage, using that quintessentially British expression: “Brilliant!”
Finding the boys was only the beginning. How to extract the team: through drilling, using technology to search the jungle for alternate exits, or via a ten hour round trip cave dive? American entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk directed his brilliant engineering teams to design a submersible vehicle small enough, and light enough, to transport the team. While his design was not used in the rescue it may well lead to advances in underwater—or space—rescues of the future. When attacked on Twitter for his seeming narcissism—“Gosh, feel like you need to leverage every public situation for your own aggrandizement much?”—Musk took it in stride, replying: “If I am a narcissist (which might be true), at least I am a useful one.” Musk and his teams even used a bit of crowd-sourcing for their designs, going so far as including padded speakers that would play soothing music within the rescue pod, after a Tweet suggested the modification.
Ultimately, the rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team was carried out by Thai dive teams. Locals, and international volunteers, staffed the dive base camp and coordination center, providing food and care for the courageous rescue team. As the world watched and waited, the Thai people demonstrated their compassion and determination. Nature continued to hamper efforts, teasing rescuers with days without rains, only for monsoon downpours to return. Oxygen levels in the cave were running low, so divers ferried oxygen tanks, as well as food and blankets, through the twisting, treacherous, tunnels. It was returning from one of these missions that Saman Kunan lost his life. While his assured status as a national hero is scant comfort to his grieving family, he gave his life in an effort to save others. May he rest in peace and his love ones be comforted by the knowledge that the mission he died for has been successful.
This story, one of ill-advised youthful adventures, harrowing days praying for any sign of life, and the remarkable rescue, will fade all too quickly from our thoughts. We will return to our celebrity-worshiping culture, aggrandizing the transient and transparent deeds of a decaying society. How much better would we all be if we spent our days rescuing more lost children? Could these weeks of international unity, celebrations of life, and acknowledgement of miracles lead all of God’s children to a better path? Let’s make these examples of humanity’s best qualities the new normal.