On Thursday, August 4, Dean Claudio Grossman and colleagues at American University Washington College of Law received a visit from four of the Chilean miners who endured 69 days trapped underground after the San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed on August 5, 2010. The four miners presented Grossman with a Chilean flag signed by all 33 of the rescued men.
Only one day before the anniversary of the tragic mine collapse, Grossman and the miners – Carlos Barrios, Jorge Galleguillos, Jose Henriques, and Mario Sepulveda – took the opportunity to discuss the miners’ experiences, both during the time they were trapped and in the months following the dramatic rescue.
“You are an inspirational testament to the power of faith and courage," Grossman told the four men in Spanish. "I value your presence at a law school like ours, renowned for its commitment to human dignity. Your example teaches us that courage, faith, and determination can literally move mountains."
Sepulveda, who was the second miner rescued, said his experiences since the mining accident have made him realize he wants to focus his energy in the future on helping people. Sepulveda complimented Grossman and his wife, Dr. Irene Klinger, on their efforts to promote exchanges and education programs between the U.S. and Chile, and said he hopes others will follow in their footsteps.
When asked how the 33 men were able to endure being trapped for so long and also be so organized, the miners said common religious beliefs as well as a democratic system of decision-making, in which everyone got to voice their opinion, helped them come together as a group. Sepulveda said when they were found, knowing the rest of the world knew they were alive, and that so many people were following their story, helped them endure the 69 days.
The miners were in Washington to attend the opening of an exhibit on their rescue at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. The exhibit features one of the rescue capsules that brought the miners back to the surface.