I first visited Chile about 25 years ago, and have continued to do so from time to time, most recently in September of 2009 when I went to Santiago to join in the celebration of the 80th anniversary of IBM Chile. I will return in a few weeks to participate in the Smarter Cities meeting that IBM is holding in Santiago on November 23. Over the years, I have met, worked closely with, and established personal connections with a fair number of people in the country.
This personal connection added an extra dimension to my interest in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, although the rescue story has been so compelling that I am not sure anything extra was needed to capture my attention. Along with a large portion of the world, I was transfixed by the rescue of the miners. Would everything work as planned? What if something went horribly wrong as we were all watching on live television? Disaster movies have taught us that just as you become confident and relaxed, things start going haywire. Would that happen here?
Thankfully, everything went smoothly. There was indeed a lot of drama, but it was all provided by the emotional reunion of the miners with their families as each reached the surface, as well as by the warm welcome they each received from everyone present, including Chilean president Sebastian Piñera and mining minister Laurence Golborne. We held our breaths from the time the first miner, Florencio Ávalos started his ascent right before midnight (Chile time) on October 12, to the time the last one reached the surface less that 24 hours later, Luis Alberto Urzúa, their shift supervisor and overall leader.
A lot of the attention is now likely to focus on how the miners and their families deal with their new celebrity status and potential financial rewards. Everyone agrees that while their fame may be lucrative, it will also be stressful. There will be lots of opportunities for public appearances, press and TV interviews, and possible book and film deals. Some will undoubtedly find their new fame too stressful and will yearn for their simpler lives as miners.