There’s no doubt in my mind that the first thing we should do, or I should do this week, is reflect upon the positive outcome of the Chiang Rai cave rescue in Thailand during this past week. Just finding these kids was a miracle in itself. Finding them alive, yet another. While bringing them all out alive, when the magnitude of the challenge facing the rescuers became evident, is a miracle of astonishing proportions.
In spite of the disorganised and unreliable nature of the search, as it got underway, and the earliest mixed messages from the search coordinator, and Acting District Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, it is clear that the search and rescue operation was conducted in a thorough and totally professional manner throughout, and praise for the joyous outcome must lie principally with the sometimes embattled official, and his team.
An international team of cave rescue experts, and diving experts was quickly assembled, and a strategy put in place to search the furthest reaches of the cave system. Certainly though, pessimism reigned around the world, with most of us fearing the worst.
It was with much elation, and a collective sigh of relief, that we all awoke on Monday the 2nd of July, to hear that the team and their coach had been found alive after nine days on a small ledge at the far extremities of the cave, 3.2 km from the entrance.
We should perhaps reflect here too, not on why they went into the cave, or the irresponsibility or otherwise, of the Wild Boars coach, 25-year-old Ekkapol Chantawong, but to congratulate him on keeping his charges alive throughout the first nine days of their ordeal. Personally, I have no doubt he will be criticised, maybe even reviled for putting his charges in danger, but he kept a clear head, and kept them alive, when he needed to, so God bless him.
The Thai Navy SEALs, who played such a key role in retrieving the young people and their coach, have awakened the next day with mixed feelings as they lost one of their own, retired Sergeant Saman Guana, who perished while placing oxygen bottles for the rescue of the children, shortly after they were found alive. This must have been a sobering time for the rescuers, as they realised the dangers involved in the forthcoming rescue were real and harsh.
The world held its breath as the first of the rescue operations began on the 8th of July. Could the boys, all non-swimmers, handle being underwater for long periods considering their ordeal up to that point? Could they and their rescuers, together, negotiate the narrowest ‘choke point’ on their swim out? It just all seemed far too difficult. It was, as we now know, a successful rescue, followed over the next day by two more similar rescues that have brought all thirteen trapped Thais home safely.
Words will never be enough in praise of the teams of divers, the hundreds of soldiers and volunteers working around the clock throughout the operation, and the cooperation and assistance of the global community. It is an example of what can be achieved when we put aside our differences, and work together for the common good.
Finally, it is an example too, of the faith and resilience of young people. Just imagine for yourself: You are wet, cold, hungry, it’s dark, and you don’t even know if anyone knows where you are. Maybe you are watching the water rise around your little haven. Where are your thoughts, and what sustains you now? Only hope, only faith, only God.
Sometimes, religion is questioned, but I don’t know that anything other than faith can have saved these fortunate thirteen.