It’s hardly any wonder why the eyes of the nation and the world have been firmly glued over the past two weeks to the perilous drama emanating from a dank, dark cave 8,000 miles away in Thailand.
First and foremost, the stunningly successful rescue of 12 young boys on a youth soccer team and their 25-year-old coach once again draws attention to the amazing ability of the human spirit to rise above the depths of immense adversity.
It also reinforces the transformative power of international cooperation to yield nearly unthinkable positive results.
As such, it will join the annals of the world’s most emotionally charged and remarkable rescues. Among them are the epic World War II rescue of 500 allied prisoners of war in the Philippines by a daring group of U.S. Rangers, the mission to save 33 men trapped 2,300 feet underground for 69 days in 2010 in a Chilean mine or the heroic three-day rescue of Baby Jessica from a backyard well in Texas that stole the hearts and minds of America.
High drama and biting suspense permeated those efforts, just as they did in the two-week odyssey just ended at the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.
This drama, like others, was born out of a thirst for adventure. Members of the Wild Boars soccer team dared to defy warnings of potential monsoon dangers to explore the cavernous labyrinth that contains artifacts including more than 180 Buddha statues and murals.
The thrill of adventure was short-lived, however, as monsoon rains trapped the team about one-half mile deep in the underbelly of the hazardous terrain filled with sinkholes, underground rivers and extremely rocky terrain.
Fortunately, survival instincts of the coach kicked in, and he was able to maneuver the team to a more elevated and safe section of the cave.
There, the 13 brave souls endured a haunting, fearful existence without food until help reached them nine long days later.
THAILAND’S RESPONSIBLE MOVES
During that time, the Thai government deftly swung into emergency rescue mode first by deploying its robust military forces, including a team of highly trained navy SEALS.
It then had the strong presence of mind to issue an SOS to the world for expertise, knowledge and muscle to avoid a heart rending tragedy.
A compassionate world responded rapidly and responsibly. According to the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, more than 1,000 people joined the mission in one capacity or another.
They included Australian police officers, radio technology from Israel and experts from China, the United States and Japan and neighboring countries Myanmar and Laos. Offering special expertise were British cave divers, touted as the best in the world.
This coordinated marshalling of resources delivered the first of the boys to safety from the cave Sunday. Those meticulously executed rescues took about five hours each to complete. By Tuesday, the final four boys and coach had been safely extricated from the eerie cavern. All are now under closely watched care on their own floor of Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, a regional hospital of Chiang Rai Province.
We now join others across the nation and the world in wishing the rescued a full and complete recovery from the physical injuries and psychological scars inflicted by their 21/2-week entrapment.
We also hope the tenacious young soccer players will be well enough to accept the warm-hearted invitation from the stellar Manchester United soccer team to the upcoming World Cup Finals. The young boys’ presence there would rightly reflect the dominant rung that soccer and heroics occupy on the world stages of news and sports this week.
But as with many high-profile rescues, this one was not without sacrifice. Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old Thai SEAL, asphyxiated Friday while attempting to deliver supplies to those trapped.
His peers persevered in his name. Today, we salute them and all who worked as a cohesive detail-oriented team to ensure success of the overall mission.
AMERICA AS COUNTERPOINT
The main ingredients to that success, however, serve as a stark and cogent counterpoint to the rancor, divisiveness and nationalist fervor now on grim display in the leadership ranks of our country. It comes as our president takes part in an international summit where he’s expected to continue a campaign of increasing isolation from many of our historic NATO allies. It also comes as the current Republican administration has launched an all-out trade war with some of our closest partners on the North American continent.
So if there is a broader metaphor from the cave saga, it is that when nations act cooperatively and constructively with one another to achieve mutually satisfying goals, triumph can be achieved for all.
The administration of President Donald Trump would do well to take that metaphor from the cave to heart.