Why we can’t stop watching the Thai cave rescue

All eyes were on Thailand, as we watched the brave divers who risked their lives to bring an entire trapped boys’ soccer team and their young coach to safety.

Our hearts go out to these divers, who have shown not only great courage but incredible skill. One can hardly imagine the difficulty of this rescue effort, which is taking place deep underground in impossibly narrow and jagged areas, with powerful currents pushing against divers who must perform a complex task in near-zero visibility in parts of the cave.

It’s inspiring to see this effort in part, I suspect, because of the international make-up of the rescue team, with British, American, Australian and Japanese divers (among others) joining Thai divers, and with other countries adding their expertise. This joint effort is symbolic, and it suggests a world where, at least for a time, it’s possible to work together in a constructive way toward a common goal.

In the Thai cave, there are no skin colors, religious differences or questions of sexual identity. Nobody is wrapping himself in a flag or questioning the science at hand. This is one of those rare times when we see how much we can achieve against terrifying odds when people work in unison, selflessly, to do something important.

Putting the welfare of these children first, in itself, is admirable. We’ve all made mistakes, and it occasionally takes a village at times to make up for those mistakes.

I don’t think anyone, anywhere, begrudges the amount of money it will cost to rescue a dozen boys and their coach. What’s interesting to me is that nobody is counting. Everyone knows that the value of life can’t be measured in money.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

And everyone is beholden to Saman Gunan, the Thai diver who lost his life a few days ago while making his way out of the Tham Luang complex of caves. His willingness to put his life on the line for the trapped boys and their coach was remarkable. He showed us courage in its purest form.

It doesn’t surprise me that countless people around the globe were riveted to their screens, waiting for the boys to emerge, one by one, eager to hear that the divers also are okay and that the coach is rescued in good health as well.

There is high drama here, of course: underground rescues always hold our attention.

I remember being glued to the TV set during the Chilean mine disaster of 2010, when 33 miners were rescued under what seemed at the time like impossible circumstances. They were trapped far underground in great danger for 69 days, and the world (an estimated one billion people) watched the rescue.

The fact that the whole world has been watching and praying for these boys in Thailand is part of the drama. Everyone knows that each of these children, and their coach, matters to his anxious family.

I have three boys myself, and I can only imagine the fear and trembling in homes as parents and other family members wait for news. The pain of separation between parents and children is an intolerable pain, and something that all people with a shred of humanity in their hearts will appreciate.

Let’s hope this international effort to rescue a dozen boys and their coach in a remote cave in Thailand lifts us all, bringing us back into the light where we can stand together and be grateful for those who teach us to care this deeply.

Written by Jay Parini for CNN.

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