One by One, Chilean Miners Reunited with Family

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The nation of Chile celebrated Wednesday with families, sharing hugs, cheers and tears as rescuers began pulling the 33 trapped miners to freedom, one by one.

It was just after midnight when the capsule containing Florencio Avalos emerged -- marking the beginning of the end for the 69-day ordeal.

Every 40 minutes, the rescue capsule emerged from the ground.

President Barack Obama called Wednesday's events captivating.

"This rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world," he said.

The rescues will continue throughout the evening and into Thursday.

The entire nation of Chile and millions of television viewers worldwide have been caught up in the miners' plight. In August, a landslide trapped them in an underground emergency shelter as they worked. Seventeen days later, the men tied a note to a drill bit saying they were alive.

The miners had 48 hours of emergency rations and stayed alive on two teaspoons of tuna each day for nearly three weeks. Rescue crews later dropped necessities down for them, and even a video camera to monitor the men's health and progress.

Slowly but surely, Wednesday, each miner inched closer to being above ground and with their families.

Forty-year-old Mario Sepulveda's rescue was the most animated. After surfacing, he handed out rocks and bear hugged Chilean President Sebastein Pinera.

"I was with God and I was with the devil, but God won," he later said. "At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of here."

The combination of high tech communications gear and low tech cables created a surreal scene as the miners were lifted one by one.

"The 'phoenix' is performing extraordinarily well [and] the journey times to the surface are shorter than we estimated," Chile's health minister Jaime Manalich said. "The capsule is not suffering damage."

The miners were given dark glasses to avoid damaging their eyesight after being in a dimly lit tunnel for so long. They will spend two days at a nearby hospital for observation.

The miners brought with them letters from loved ones, religious statues and other items from the mine. They are all reminders of an incredible experience the world will not forget.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.