BY Ian Dunn | August 3 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


The miracle rescue that gave us all hope

IAN DUNN looks at how the Thai cave incident sparked astonishing acts of courage and grace

Weeks later, I still think about the Wild Boars. The world has moved on, as it does, but those 12 Thai boys, their football coach and their miraculous escape are still floating around my brain.

It was a miracle.13 souls were trapped for more than two weeks in a cave with no food and no means of contacting the outside world. It took an international team of divers and experts to eventually find and rescue them, in conditions that were unbelievably challenging.

But like all true miracles, it helped many more than those saved.

It’s a story that captured the attention of the world. That’s very rare. The thing about media now is we know what people like, what they now click on, what they want to read. It’s generally not stories about disasters in far-off countries, especially if there’s no tourists involved.

While the rescue mission into the cave was going on, a ferry sank off the coast of Thailand. 41 people died. You had no idea. But those boys, in that cave—everyone knows about that.

In part, it is the universal claustrophobic itch that exists in all of us, that fear of getting stuck in the dark, in the wet, without light and without hope slowly getting weaker makes all of us shiver.

“I fainted. I had no energy and was very hungry. I tried not to think about food because it would make me hungry,” said one of the boys, Chanin Vibulrungruang.

What could be worse than that slow, agonising waiting?

But the reason it stays with us is something altogether higher and better. It is in the end the ­simplest question of all.

Should we try to save a child in danger? That’s why people flew in from all over the world. Why millions were spent.

And some people, cold-hearted rationalists no doubt, question that. Snidely suggest that all that money and effort could have been better spent elsewhere. But we know they’re wrong.

It’s hard not to be feel confused by the relentless face of the world, the spinning madness of the news. So when something so absolutely black and white comes along we leap onto it desperately.

Because we knew. We all knew that they had to try, they had to do whatever they could to save those boys.

And the stories since show how so many gave so much. There was the Australian Dr Richard Harris, who medically assessed each boy prior to their rescue, and gave the green light for the rescue operation’s advancement. He was also the last person inside the cave once the team had been safely rescued, and did so only to discover his father had just died.

Another hero of the story was Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who gave his life for the boys, losing consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave complex, where he had been delivering air tanks.

And then there’s the fact that the pumps keeping water out of the cave collapsed just after the last boy was freed, sparking a mad dash back to the surface. All this underlines the heroic efforts from so many. Because when it’s black and white, people are astonishingly good.

The thing that sticks with me most though is a letter, written by the mother of Nattawut Takamsai, 14, to the coach Ekkapol Chantawon when he and the boys where still inside.

She told the coach, who had led the boys into the cave system: “We want you to know that no parents are angry with you at all, so don’t you worry about that.”

That’s grace. Amid a parent’s fear and anger she found the grace to write that. Like I say, when it’s clear we find human beings are capable of the most astonishing acts of courage and of mercy. What we want, deep down, is for it always to be so clear cut, and of course it isn’t. But it gives us hope that we could find that courage ourselves.

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