In an increasingly ‘I‘-centric world, how heart-squeezing it is to see the global community living near and far step forward, swiftly and courageously, to protect the lives of others. Of strangers. Of youngsters. Because it is simply the right thing to do, and it must be done right now.
The moment: June 23rd, 2018.
The unnerving sight: a row of young boys’ bicycles lined up alongside the entrance to Chiang Rai’s now globally famous Tham Luang cave, fringed by the football shoes – small sized shoes – of boys aged between 11 and 17. Twelve pair, plus one, that of their assistant coach, he 25.
The fear: they are lost.
It was meant to be a brief, cooling, post-practice cave excursion in honour of one of the little lads’ birthday. Little did they know that monsoon rains would push them further and further back into the dark, cold, daunting cave network. Little did they know the world would be counting the minutes….hours…..days that would pass as they stood on a musty outcrop for a time they were unable to count.
10 days to be exact. Then and only then, over 4km of cave passage exploration later (with some stretches reaching deadly depths of 5m), the boys first sensed through warm scent in deep, cave darkness, and then through the glow of a diver’s search light. Joy, relief, prayers of thanks, were short lived. They were found, but they were not out.
How were these 13 boys, all unqualified divers, many unable to swim, going to be able to travel the 4+km of cave route through rising monsoon waters the colour of cold coffee? How would they survive the contours, the crevices, the cold, the enduring risk of claustrophobia-provoked panic? How could Mother Nature be so cruel?
The risks were real. The search alone put fears of failing into the flowing waters. There was no guarantee of even the most qualified of divers being able to make it through even just the search for the boys. And even if they were found, there was no guarantee they were still alive. Life and death were two extremes of a spectrum demanding second-by-second respect from all involved – trapped boys and search party specialist alike. The cocktail of faith and courage made for initial brave, bold attempts.
With prayers flowing and shrines rising outside the cave, across the Kingdom of Thailand, and across the world, the nation and world’s best and brightest began to gather, tanks and tools at the ready, at the entrance of the cave – a gateway to a complex network of passages now filling with the annual monsoon’s most threatening shows of force. Even the best of calculations were merely a hypothesis as the heavens poured down.
As windows of dry briefly opened, rescue teams set out. The fragility of the situation came back to all as fast and furiously as the monsoon flood rains as one of the rescue operations team – Former Thai navy Seal diver Saman Kunan – died on July 06th as exiting Tham Luang cave. Nothing, and no one, can and would be taken for granted.
On July 02nd when the boys were miraculously discovered alive on an elevated ledge deep within the cave, long waves of exhale of relief and gratitude spread through the cave pathway, stretching out to meet with Thai sunshine and tired families, and continue across the world. They were alive! But they were still trapped, with the rain water pouring into their severely limited space with its severely threatened oxygen supply. The journey out for just one of the boys would be a miracle. For thirteen? How? When? In what order?
The drama of the rescue is now a part of the modern history of the Kingdom, along with the life stories of a team of heroic divers, an international team of 18 including 13 from across the world and 5 from at home in Thailand. 13 boys, one by one by one, over the period of July 08th to 10th, returning home to their families to resume their lives with renewed hope.
At a time when our world has become increasingly closed to those needing homes, those needing hope, the rescue of these young boys proved that, when the call comes, from wherever, doing the right thing means doing it right now, right where needed. It is so easy in today’s day and age of quick reads, quick commentary and quick clicks onto the next story. To forget why caring matters. To forget why stepping up and honouring what matters most keeps us connected in ways that social media and other platforms of quick-sharing can never do.
And as demonstrated with such quiet class and beauty, to forget that the story is not over until those precious final two words are conveyed.
Thank You. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018