Is there anyone who didn’t watch or listen daily to the news of the Thai soccer boys and their coach trapped in a cave? Regardless of your nationality, most of the world stayed tuned in daily as to their fate in a battle for survival with monsoons lurking.
At first, no one knew where the team was. They were just “lost.” Then, it was determined they had ventured into a cave to explore. Their soccer bags had been left at the entrance to Tham Luang Cave, a narrow and lengthy caving experience but usually quite safe. The cave went on for more than 1.8 miles, and the usual hiking time was five hours to a large limestone chamber.
It was thought this was a sort of rite of initiation. The test was to make the hike and carve your name in the walls of this cavern. Unfortunately, while this was being achieved, the rains came and their entrance that already was narrow, long and rather dangerous, was totally impassable because of flooding.
The boys were left without food as the first week and then a second passed. Divers from the Thai Navy Seal program soon were on-site and trying to determine how to get to the boys. They suited up, took as much oxygen as they could carry and made the first contact with the team, known as the Wild Boars. They were alive and hungry, but there was enough oxygen that seeped into the cave and the water was fresh.
Soon, the Seals brought in a doctor who spent the entire time with the team. Some of the boys couldn’t swim and none had scuba experience. How were they to escape this stone prison?
The world sent its experts on pumping, and they began an attempt to lower the water, but it wasn’t to be enough. More rain was predicted in this monsoon season. Families gathered outside the cave in the mud and squalor. More than 1,000 were to come to help any way they could. People cooked for the families of the boys. Prayer sessions were organized, but the boys had to come out soon.
The divers concocted a plan with two divers taking each boy out. Oxygen masks were to be fitted on the boys, and they would be tethered to a diver with another diver behind. Then the long swim would occur.
One Thai diver succumbed to a lack of oxygen on one of the first trips and died. The seriousness had risen another degree. Finally, four boys were brought out the first time. Four more followed two days later. The names of these first survivors were not released so the families could not grieve that their son had not come first. They were taken to a hospital and confined to make sure they had not contracted “cave” disease caused by bat or other droppings inside the caves.
Finally, the last four and their coach were brought out, and the world rejoiced. The ordeal was over, or was it?
This is what impressed me the most. There was no blaming of the coach for the venture. There were no complaints the cave should have been off limits to exploring by curious young men. There was only joy and celebration of such a happy ending.
I think of what might have transpired if that had happened in the caves of Kentucky or New Mexico. The coach would have been condemned for such a foolhardy decision. Lawsuits might well have been filed for failure to have proper signage in front of the entrance warning of the potential dangers. Parents would have been outraged at what had happened to their sons. That, unfortunately, is the American way.
Wasn’t it just so refreshing to see the world worried for these boys for days? The attention of the public was diverted from tariff wars, our President angering most of the European leaders and news of LeBron James getting more than $150 million for three years to “play” basketball.
Sometimes, it takes a near disaster for the world to get its head out of its you-know-where and appreciate the positive and not blame and litigate as the antecedents of accountability and a need for everything to lead to a future improvement. Let us be reminded this rescue of a youth soccer team presents an important life lesson: There are the first responders, volunteers and experts who forego their daily responsibility and move to the scene of a potential tragedy and save the day. Let us rejoice in that. Let our world pull together as it did for these three weeks and not apart.
Note: I want to apologize for an error last week. In my haste to write that article, I confused Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clement Haynesworth. Haynesworth was the 1969 nominee who was crushed by the U.S. Senate as I personally watched that fall, not Bork, who was denied such a seat on the Supreme Court a number of years later. Thanks, Emile, for the correction. Ah, memories do age as well.