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33 Men by Jonathan Franklin

33 MenNormally, I’m not one for books about terrible tragedies or stories that have been unremittingly covered by the press.  At the end of a news cycle, most stories have been dissected to death, and I feel little need to learn what tiny details did not make it into the reports.  The saga of the 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine was dramatic and drawn out, a sure recipe for desensitization via media, and yet – I am still utterly fascinated by it.

While reading the coverage of the rescue attempt, my mind kept going back to the 17 days these men spent at the bottom of a mine before the first drill broke through.  I get claustrophobic just thinking about it.  It’s so hard to imagine being trapped down there, with no way to communicate and the bare minimum of resources.  The fact that they were able to ration their food so carefully and keep some semblance of order is astounding.  But what were those first days like, down there in the darkest depths of a dangerous mine?

Franklin’s book sheds some light on these previously unpublished details, following the incident from the cave-in through the impressive rescue 69 days later.  An American journalist living in Chile for the past two decades, Franklin was granted a Rescue Pass, giving him unprecedented access to the rescue operation and, eventually, the miners themselves.  His account follows the action above and below the ground as both sides struggled to prevent a tragic outcome.  The book is a testament to the strong survival instinct and solidarity displayed under the greatest pressure, as well as the technical capabilities and dedication of rescuers who arrived from across the globe.

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