One by one, the Chilean miners kept rising from what could have been their tomb, and the drama that turned the 33 men into international superstars had New Yorkers tethered to TVs.
“Look, when I see that, my heart — it almost explodes,” said Denic Catalani, 46, watching the live coverage Wednesday at a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant.
“I cried when I saw the first miner come up,” said Dave Schulter, 50, of Dyker Heights. “I didn’t think they’d live.”
The men survived for 69 days 2,000 feet below the earth - the longest anyone has been trapped in a mine - after falling rock cut off the main access point in the San Jose copper mine in the Atacama Desert. For two weeks, they were feared dead.
With a narrow escape route, the subterranean spectacle required each miner to be plucked individually and carried to the surface by a 13-foot-by-22-inch capsule. They arrived to a hero’s welcome with loved ones racing to embrace them.
“Welcome to life,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told Victor Segvia, the 15th miner out.
Most appeared to be in good shape, even clean-shaven. Some, however, have been struggling with illness and were shaky. The men were whisked away by medical teams to undergo checkups.
A brave new world awaits them, with countless interviews and opportunities for fame, possibly fortune and inevitable book deals. Incredibly, some of the men said they would return to work in the mines.
“It’s like an example of humanity,” said Victor Gonzalez, a Chilean immigrant from midtown. “If everyone is a team, you can get whatever goal you want.”
(With Heidi Lee and Reuters)