Excerpt from “The 33” by Jonathan Franklin ~~Alive~~

picture-The33-FranklinBefore Piñera arrived, the last section of drill was removed. Eduardo Hurtado looked at the muddy piping and saw an orange splotch on the shaft, above the drill bit. A message? Wiping away the mud, Hurtado grabbed a gallon jug of bottled water and poured it over the drill, dousing Golborne as well. ‘Sorry, Minister,’ said Hurtado, as he cleaned the shaft to reveal a crude orange stain. ‘That mark is not ours,’ said Hurtado. ‘Minister, this is a sign of life.’
At 2 PM, Golborne inspected the tube. Hearing a distant clanging had encouraged the minister, but here was hand-painted evidence of survivors. Seconds later, as the drill bit emerged completely, the men saw a yellow plastic bag tied to the tip of the drill. It was wound in cables and the rubber elastic from Sepúlveda’s underwear. The workers unravelled the cables and peeled away layers of muddy plastic from the sodden package. Golborne opened the small shredded pieces of paper as if they were delicate gifts. He began to read aloud from pages torn out of a notebook. A message from the deep. ‘ “The drill broke through at [level] forty-four … in the corner of the ceiling, on the right side … some water came down. We are in the shelter. … may God bring you light, greetings, Mario Gómez.”’
On the other side was more writing. Golborne again read aloud to the hushed crowd. ‘ “Dear Lily, patience, I want to get out of here soon …”’ He continued reading in silence, and then announced, ‘This is personal.’ Golborne carefully gathered the scraps of the letter and, together with Sougarret, prepared to board a pickup and drive down the hill. Protocol weighed heavily on both men; they were determined to brief the families before the news leaked.
Francisco Poyanco, a technician on the drill rig, was stacking the metal piping coming up from the hole. The very last tube, in which Golborne had found the note, was dripping with mud and earth from below. Poyanco began to gather the nylon bags and cables that had held Gómez’s note. Half buried in the mess, a lump of tape stood out. Poyanco picked it up and discovered another small tightly wrapped package – another note from the buried men. Poyanco was thrilled, thinking it was a souvenir he could take home. As he unfolded the note, however, Poyanco felt chills – ‘Estamos Bien En El Refugio los 33.’ In clear red letters, evenly spaced and calmly written, was the proof of salvation: all the men were alive.
Poyanco ran towards Golborne, carrying the scrap of paper he had found in the mud. He began yelling that all of the men were alive. Hurtado heard the cries. Golborne paused, then seeing that Poyanco had a note, told him to read it aloud. The thirty-year-old assistant unfolded the note and read aloud the seven words: ‘Estamos Bien En El Refugio los 33.’ (‘We are all right in the shelter, the 33 of us.’) The drill site erupted. Like spectators at a soccer match after a spectacular goal, helmeted engineers thrust their arms skyward, jumping up and down and hugging one another.


1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “The 33” by Jonathan Franklin ~~Alive~~

  1. Jonathan Franklin has written the story of the Copiapó mining accident, where 33 men were trapped underground for 69 days, before finally being rescued on 13 October 2010.

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