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Last August, the entire world watched a drama unfold in northern Chile. Thirty-three men were entombed half-a-mile underground when the San Jose copper mine collapsed. A rock the size of a skyscraper had sheared off the mountain above and blocked the miners’ access to the surface. After seventeen days — as hopes for their survival began to dim — the men were discovered alive. For seven weeks, engineers and emergency workers worked around the clock to bring the men to the surface. One American journalist gained exclusive access to the rescue operation and the trapped miners. This hour, he tells the story of their dramatic ordeal and its aftermath.
- Jonathan Franklin award-winning journalist who reports for "The Washington Post," "The Guardian," and "Der Spiegal," among other publications. He lives in Santiago, Chile.
Read an Excerpt
60 Minutes recently interviewed several of the 33 Chilean miners about the many challenges they are facing in the aftermath of their rescue:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. An estimated one billion people watched last October as 33 men emerged one by one from a collapsed copper mine in Northern Chile. The story of their entrapment, one of the longest in human history, and its aftermath is the subject of a new book. It was written by a veteran journalist with unprecedented access to the miners during and after their ordeal.
MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled, "33 Men" and the author, Jonathan Franklin, joins me from the BBC in London. Of course, you are welcome to join us as well with questions and comments to 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, Jonathan.
MR. JONATHAN FRANKLINGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to have you with us.
FRANKLINThank you. It's quite a story.
REHMIt sure is. Jonathan, first of all, tell us how the miners are today.
FRANKLINI think today the miners are a bit in limbo because when they came out, they were promised fame and fortune and they got the fame, but not necessarily the fortune. And they're going a little stir crazy because they're not working, so I think there's going to be a few more months before they can actually settle down and figure out where do they fit into this new world.
REHMI gather they were having some pretty serious psychological problems after they came up?
FRANKLINYeah. I think that if you go back and you look really at how difficult their entrapment was -- I think a lot of people on TV saw this and, Diane, they thought they knew this story. But as I dug in and I interviewed, you know, and poked around in the story it really becomes apparent that what they lived was so much more dramatic than we could possibly imagine. That it's not surprising that they do have kind of classic PTSD symptoms and that, you know, even some of the miners are now afraid of the dark.
REHMI gather that at least several of the miners said they didn't even want to live anymore.
FRANKLINWhat I think has happened is that they are having a difficult time figuring out, you know, what are they going to do with their life. You know, this near-death experience, you know, for 17 days they were trapped down there with no food and dwindling hope. And as I describe in the book, I try and take you along for the journey, make you feel like you're underground with them. I think you can understand, after reading this, just how difficult it is to live in a normal society. I mean, they look at a glass of water and they're thankful for a glass of water.
FRANKLINIt's interesting, the miners would never throw out a plate of food now. They value the most simple of pleasures. The beach, they say, is -- it's just a wonder to go to the beach or see the sky. So one of the miners said to me, I look in the mirror and I see these eyes, those are not my eyes.
REHMI was so saddened when I watched the piece on "60 Minutes" and one of the miners said he could no longer relate to his family or his children. So I gather things have changed rather dramatically for at least some of the men.
FRANKLINIt's going to be some time, I think, because when they're together, they look like happy children, the miners, in the same way that soldiers from a platoon that's been lost in a jungle or in combat situation, these men feel that the only people who could possibly understand what it was like. Because you have to remember, Diane, they were underground for ten weeks. They went in in winter and came out in spring. It's very difficult for them to describe and have people understand, so there's this real bond. And I believe, you know, they would die for each other. Despite their differences as 33 individuals, this is a story of 33 men who came together and are just loyal to each other in the most remarkable ways.
REHMJonathan Franklin, his new book is titled, "33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners." We do have a chapter from the book on our website as well as the "60 Minutes" interview that Jonathan Franklin did and that's at drshow.org Tell us, Jonathan, how you first gained access to the rescue and how you managed to earn the miners' trust.
FRANKLINWell, it actually all began with my thirteen-year-old daughter who, about four days after the miners were trapped, she said, dad, this is your book. And I should have listened to my thirteen-year-old, but instead I waited another week and I followed this from a distance. And I realized that Amy was right.
FRANKLINThere was a remarkable story here. And so I approached officials on the rescue team and I said that I was a reporter for The Guardian, I also work for The Washington Post and that I wanted to watch this firsthand. And they gave me a rescue pass. They allowed me to go behind the police lines, to go up into the hills. And I think they did this because I asked very early on and also because in a certain way, I'm a local.
FRANKLINI was raised in Boston and I speak Spanish with a terrible accent, but nonetheless, I've lived in Chile for 16 years. So it wasn't like these journalists who parachuted in from Australia and tried to make sense of this. I've lived a good chunk of my adult life in Chile so I really feel like I know the culture and that allowed me to speak to them in their own language. And I spent quite a bit of time with the families.
FRANKLINObviously, the miners were deep underground. But bit by bit, the families started to tell me the real story, let me read the letters from below and I was even allowed to interview the miners while they were trapped underground.
REHMOf course, you also -- which you failed to mention, you also have six daughters and a Chilean wife.
FRANKLINIndeed, my life revolves around Chile and it feels like home. So when I hear Chileans telling a joke, I understand the context. When the police come and, you know, give a briefing, I can read the subtext.
FRANKLINI really think that that was a key to this story because I'm trying to tell it both from the perspective of the miners -- because the book alternates between taking you deep underground and making you feel like you're trapped with the miners and then it brings you aboveground and puts you in the front row with the rescue workers. And there's all sorts of details. And in a way, it almost reads like, you know, fiction, almost like a thriller because there's just so many aspects of this that many people just never realized how close these men were to death time and time again.
REHMWell, and the thing that fascinated me, as well, was how fate kind of brought these people together. How, you know, one person might have missed a bus, not gotten to the mine. One person's wife said to him, don't go to work today, yet he went anyway. I mean, all this bringing these 33 men together involved fate.
FRANKLINThat has a lot to do with about why I wrote this book. Because when I first sat down to write it, I wanted to share their journey, you know, from the beginning to the end and for the world to understand these as individuals, you know, as fathers, brothers, grandfathers or husbands, because each man has his own story, his own family, his own survival. And they use different methods to cope under these really remarkable circumstances. You know, and I ask myself, could I have survived for 17 days? You know, many people lose power to their house and you know, within 24 hours, are unable to cope. How these men survived and created an underground society of their own, for me, is the real, the real miracle and the heart of this book.
REHMYou've said that the story of the initial 17 days surprised you the most. How come?
FRANKLINBecause I think that when you actually realize the conditions of these men, to even get to the bottom of the mine from the mouth, it's a 40-minute drive. You corkscrew down and around and deeper and when you get 700 meters deep, it's 90 degrees and 95 percent humidity. There's a bit of air. It's pretty stale, lots of exhaust, not to mention these men were all chain-smoking. And even on a good day, this was an extremely dangerous place to work. And the men nicknamed themselves The Kamikazes because most miners refused to go anywhere near this mine.
FRANKLINYet these men went to work that day and were trapped and they quickly bonded. Instead of each man trying to fight his own way out or fighting with his colleagues, they quickly came together and decided the only way they could possibly survive was by creating a unified front and they began to vote on important decisions. They had the equivalent of a New England-style town meeting. They would share their food to the point that each man would have one spoonful of tuna fish every 48 hours. And so it's really, for me, a story of triumph over adversity, about this ability to come together for the best of reasons.
REHMThey literally were able to create an underground society with a hierarchy.
FRANKLINIt sounds rather idealistic and many people think, oh, trapped men, "Lord of the Flies." But the "Lord of the Flies" is fiction. This is reality and this is really what happened to the trapped men. They were capable of using the engine block of their truck for a clothes dryer. They dried their wet clothes on the engine block. They used the exhaust pipe as a tea kettle to boil the water. They took the lights from the vehicles, unscrewed them and strung them up through the tunnels like Christmas lights.
FRANKLINEvery 12 hours, they would turn the lights off to simulate night and day. They even channeled the water away from their sleeping area and made a swimming pool.
REHMYou know, as you talk, Jonathan, it -- we always think -- as you've said, people lose their electricity in their house for more than 24 hours, they kind of go nuts. They've got to go to a hotel. This story literally revives my faith in the power, in the ingenuity, in the faith of human beings in each other. That's why I love this story so much. Short break and right back.
REHMJonathan Franklin joins us from the BBC in London. We're talking about his brand new book. It's titled "33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners." Many of you may have seen the "60 Minutes" piece about the miners that was on last week. And we do have a clip of that at our website. It's an interview with Jonathan Franklin as well as with several of the miners. We also have a chapter of Jonathan's book at our website, drshow.org.
REHMAnd Jonathan, just before the break, we were talking about how amazingly these men seemed to have created this underground society. I read that professionals both in Chile and with NASA who were brought in by the Chileans to share really decades of studying human behavior in confined stressful situations were astounded. So my question to you is to what do you attribute that ability -- their ability to organize themselves to think rationally in this totally irrational situation? How did they do it? Why did they do it? What was within them that gave them the ability to do that?
FRANKLINWell, that's a very good question, Diane, because a lot of us who actually know the rescue, you know, intimately because -- as I said before, so many people who watched on that remarkable day when they were pulled up and saved -- you know, for 24 hours, they popped out one after another, but that's just a tip of the story. There's so much more there. And I interviewed maybe 100 people for this book and really got into understanding how they survived, what they ate, what they thought, their nightmares and their fears. And I believe that when I asked the men that same question, how did you survive, the foreman looked at me and just shook his head. This was just hours after he'd come out of the hole and he said, humor and democracy.
FRANKLINHe said the men, even in the worst moments when they were starving to death, they had a game where they would go around and out loud they would describe their favorite meal in luscious detail. And another man on the brink of death, starving for two weeks, he pretended he was about to die. He said, tell my wife that I left the money in -- and he collapsed. And all the other miners shook him and they thought for sure that their valiant Mario had died. He waited a few seconds and he said, I got you, and they all started laughing and they almost wanted to kill him.
REHMI can well understand that.
FRANKLINAnd so this ability to have humor -- one of the men walked around in his red underwear the whole time 'cause it was so hot. They nicknamed him Little Red Riding Hood.
REHMOh, my gosh.
FRANKLINSo I think that this idea that the men were crying and just despondent is so far from the truth. They had this ability to laugh and to maintain a sense of humor even under the worst conditions. And then the foreman told me, we were 33, 16 plus 1 was a majority. We voted if we had two or three ideas about how to escape. And this happened in the early days when the men were trapped and it wasn't clear if a rescue would ever come. They had to decide and how should they plan their own escape. They voted. When food began to run low, as it always was, they had to decide, do we eat every 12 hours or every 36 hours? They put it to a vote.
FRANKLINAnd even when there was fights -- one man clubbed another over the head with a flashlight -- the two of them had to go before the whole group that sat there like a permanent jury and they had to confess, shake hands and apologize. They said, if we had allowed violence to break out, there would've been a few dead guys on the floor. So they had this remarkable ability to see what it was that was essential to the group's survival and put aside their individual wants or needs. And this allowed each man to shine.
FRANKLINYou know, the foreman who should've been their leader, he was too shy to be a leader under these circumstances, but he had been trained as a map maker. So he lived inside a pickup truck and drew maps of the mine day and night, which later helped them be saved. Another man became the official poet. They actually elected their own poet down below and he would write stanzas of hope and optimism to the other men. The electricians rigged up lights. So they had this ability to seek out that one quality which, in these special circumstances, was a value to the group.
REHMJonathan, however you describe this wonderful and really glorious human ability to come together, as the starvation went on there were fears of cannibalism. In fact, is it true that the miners had picked out a pot, a saw and they had a plan for cooking should it come to that?
FRANKLINThis has been extremely controversial because the miners say they were only joking. But I've asked them many times about this and what I see is the following. That for the last few days, the men had run out of food pretty much and they would scour the tunnels looking for insects, you know, an ant, a mosquito, anything. There was none. They had found orange peels and they ate every orange peel in that tunnel. And they knew that sooner or later one of the men might die. And had he died, they would've had to come to a very difficult decision. Do we bury him or do we eat him? And they've told me they had plans to eat whoever had died first. It was not a decision they could talk about openly. It was only hush-hush. They made jokes about it.
FRANKLINAnd only later when they were being fed could they later admit that this was something that was always kind of stalking their conscience, but they could never openly discuss.
REHMJonathan Franklin. We're talking about his new book about the 33 Chilean miners trapped beneath the earth for ten weeks before they were finally rescued. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. I was surprised to learn that many of the men were dealing with addictions and some had to, as though they were in some kind of clinic, rid themselves of those addictions cold turkey.
FRANKLINIt was extremely difficult because the average man down there was 40 years old. A good many of them were drinking heavily. Quite a few of them were smoking heavily. Some of them were used to doing cocaine. So it was difficult because instantly they were cut off. And I think the hardest experience for all of them, based on many interviews, was for the smokers because they were in extremely, extremely stressful situation and their body was just craving nicotine. They were eventually given cigarettes. The Chilean government at first tried Nicotine patches, which didn't work for many reasons, including that it was so humid they would fall off. And so cigarettes were quickly and massively provided to the miners.
FRANKLINIt was actually comical. I saw a personal trainer for the miners stuffing the tube full of cigarettes and I said, that's strange. I've never seen a personal trainer shoving so many cigarettes to his clients. And he said...
FRANKLIN...this is a rescue operation. This is not a stop-smoking program.
REHMYeah, I can understand that. You know, what you might do is now take us to the surface. What's going on on the surface, the planning for how to reach those miners? Who's involved and how did you participate?
FRANKLINWell, very early on, President Pinera decided that he had no idea how to save trapped miners in such a circumstance. And he told me that he was haunted by the Russian decision not to seek help when the Kursk, a submarine, sank to the bottom. Many of us remember that those sailors died.
FRANKLINThey slowly tapped out their goodbyes in Morse Code on the hull of the submarine. Pinera was haunted by that scene. He really believed that had the Russians been more open to outside help, they could've saved those sailors. So he called every president he could imagine and President Pinera said, what do you have? What technologies, what knowledge, what experience could you provide that helped us? And the world responded with the most amazing help. You know, the Japanese gave fiber optic cable. UPS donated 26,000 pounds of free shipping. Center Rock, a company in Pennsylvania, designed new drill bits. Oakley threw in the sunglasses. It was this worldwide response
FRANKLINAnd I believe that was what was so successful -- because Pinera comes from a business background. He's a self-made billionaire. And so he knew that failure would be part of the game. I think most presidents would've been happy with just one rescue scenario. Pinera, he had three separate million-dollar rescue operations. And what this did is it allowed for them to have three different technologies. Even if two had failed, he still had that third.
FRANKLINSo I was there above ground. I was front row for this entire rescue and watching it up close. And for me, that's -- really the genius behind the Chilean rescue was admitting their own shortcomings. And at one point, the mining minister calls the president and says, I've done it, I've done it, I've got a drill. And the president said, that's very nice, get me ten more.
REHMNow, there was also a psychologist above who was supposed to be helping those miners deal with their issues. Something went wrong there. What was it?
FRANKLINWell, Diane, I think the psychologist had the real mission impossible. The psychologist was trying to get the men to open up and confess their fears, their ideas about survival. And the miners didn't have the slightest interest in speaking to a psychologist. When he first started talking to them, they said, why are you doing this? We are not sick. Send us cigarettes, send us beer.
FRANKLINThere was quite a cultural clash here and he was very concerned that if they got letters that -- for example, from a wife who wanted a divorce or from a lover who announced that she was pregnant, that that would just send the men into a frenzy of despair. And so he heavily censored their letters, but it wasn't done well. It wasn't explained to the miners and sometimes the letters were rewritten in different handwriting. So quickly the men rebelled and they then said that if the letter censoring did not stop, they were going to go on a hunger strike.
REHMSo they got rid of this particular psychologist.
FRANKLINAnd then, a new psychologist came in and his attitude was, let it be. And the families began to smuggle down everything. They smuggled down, according to family members, amphetamines, marijuana and chocolates. And the government was particularly worried about the chocolate.
FRANKLINBecause the men had such bad teeth. You know, really what happened here is that a tooth infection could've killed the men. They had no way to do surgery. So when they found out the men were eating candy, they started sending down videos and instructions on how to pull your own teeth.
REHMOh, my goodness. Did anyone have to do that?
FRANKLINNo. I can remember the lead doctor saying, Johnny, tell the boys to brush their teeth or you'll be ripping them out.
REHMAnd what did they use to brush their teeth?
FRANKLINWell, this is after they had been -- contact had been made. And at that point, the situation went from one extreme, that is no food, no contact, to the other extreme where everything was coming down. They soon had TV, they had daily laundry service, they had hot water, three meals a day to the point where the men became extremely finicky. They began to send the desserts up if they weren't warm enough.
REHMOh, my goodness. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There is one question, Jonathan, that keeps coming up and that is whether the president is giving these people what they need now or whether they've been shunned now that all of the attention is behind them.
FRANKLINI asked that same question. And first of all, you have to realize that under Chilean law, it's not the government's responsibility to take care of them. That comes under the health insurance company that was responsible for the accident. So the government actually legally is kind of cut off from some of these procedures. It's not the same as the United States. And the government has told me that the problem is they might make and allow situations for the miners to meet the psychologist. And the health insurance company does the same, but often the men don't go. And so I had a government official say to me, yes, we could probably come up with a way to have them institutionalized, but forced hospitalization is hardly going to be very therapeutic.
FRANKLINAnd so there's this real problem and that the miners need help, but they're not that willing to accept it. The miners need to work, but obviously the majority don't want to go back to work in a mine. And they have this free time, which is a little bit disconcerting to them and their families because they're kind of spinning their wheels. So the government had job fairs where they offered, you know, jobs in other industries. Other mining companies have offered opportunities. But the men aren't ready to go back to work.
FRANKLINIf you ask me, what they need is for somebody -- some philanthropist to give them a million dollars, rent out a beach house for three months and bring in the best specialists from Walter Reed who know PTSD and give them a group therapy. Because this is -- as much as it seems unique, there must be some pretty general expectations among the experienced psychologists about how to deal with this. And the men are in need of help, but they don't know how to ask.
REHMCourse, isn't it true that 30 of the miners have sued the government, even though, as you say, it's up to the insurance companies to deal with it?
FRANKLINWell, there are all sorts of lawsuits going on. I'm not sure what the latest number of lawsuits going on, but there was concerns that the government should never have let this mine continue operating. And there's a lawsuit even more pertinent against the mine owners. That lawsuit, which the miners will win -- and they will actually probably get a reasonable settlement, perhaps between 50 and $100,000 apiece, that will go a long way towards giving them a foundation. Because right now, they'll make a few thousand dollars with an interview here, then they'll take a free trip to Disneyland there. But it's not a real life. It's not sustainable.
FRANKLINSo they need to kind of have a guidepost to get them back towards some semblance of an ordinary life because they're really, in my opinion, in this limbo where they're not working-class miners anymore. Or are they? Are they media superstars or are they, you know, a father? I think there's a lot of basic questions about who you are. And as one of the wives told me, my Raul who went into that mine was not the same Raul who came out.
REHMWe've got to take a short break here. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Jonathan Franklin. He's the author of a new book titled "33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners."
REHMIf you've just joined us, Jonathan Franklin is at the BBC in London joining us to talk about his new book, "33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners." He appeared on "60 Minutes" recently. We have that interview up on our website, as well as a copy of the first chapter of his book. You can go to drshow.org to see that. Let's open the phones now. First, to Nellie in Boca Raton, Fla. Good morning to you.
NELLIEGood morning, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
REHMYou're most welcome.
NELLIEYes. I want to tell you quick that I feel like a member of a (unintelligible). And you are a treasure. This is a wonderful show. And my question for Mr. Franklin is what about -- he mentioned the sense of humor and democracy, the basis -- the base of, let's say, the organization. What about (unintelligible) the common sense. It's something that fascinates me that I can tell that I -- so extremely smart people with almost no common sense...
REHMThat's an interesting point. Jonathan Franklin, these were all Chileans. They were common laborers. Is there, in your view, a common sense virtue that perhaps was at work there that many of us who are too spoiled with all the privileges and all the comforts might not have brought to the fore?
FRANKLINThat's a very good question. And the answer is yes. These men were never given any favors in life. They had to repair their own trucks at the bottom of the mine. They had to buy their own boots. The mine was so cheap they had to buy their own headlamps. They were used to making do. And even on a good day, they suffered more than most of us have ever suffered. So I think that working in a mine, working underground, being treated with little respect and lots of abuse, made them have a common sense that these men were survivors long before the mine collapsed. And I believe that the collapse, it just accentuated that sense of self preservation. You know, you don't survive as a miner unless you have common sense.
FRANKLINYou have to pay great attention to, you know, where you walk, where you stop, you know, operating heavy equipment, lighting off dynamite. You know, miners who don't pay attention and miners who don't have common sense, quickly become either ex-miners or dead miners.
REHMInteresting. Thank you for your call, Nellie. Let's go to Rancho Santa Fe in California. Good morning, Heather.
HEATHERA comment following this call -- it may be redundant. I doubt that any of my neighbors who are spoiled recipients of wretched excess would have survived longer than three days. I don't know anyone who has the qualities he's described that could have gotten through it.
REHMOn the other hand, let's not be too condemning of either ourselves or our neighbors. When put into extreme situations, the best may come out. I mean, look at many of the war stories coming out of Vietnam. Look at many of the stories coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan. Things do change when people are in extraordinarily stressful situations. Jonathan, what do you think?
FRANKLINI think, in general, the media does a very bad job of acknowledging altruism and people's general sense that we will work together for the best reasons.
FRANKLINYou know, there's a focus on extreme weather and riots and death. But, in fact, this Chilean rescue showed that the world is very hungry for good news and that it does tap into one of our probably most basic self-preservation instincts. So I'm much more optimistic that you could take a group of, you know, 33 people from the mall and stick them in a sinking submarine and I think you would find a team pretty fast.
REHMThanks for calling, Heather. Here's an e-mail from Hank in Ann Arbor. He says, "Should we think about why we want to hear survival stories like this beyond pure curiosity and the hope of being inspired? Are we also drawn to situations in which it is possible to experience solidarity and practical democracy?" What do you think, Jonathan?
FRANKLINI've asked myself a lot, why did the world flock to this story? There was a lot going on. There's miners being rescued, there's sailors being rescued. I really think that after a decade of this age of terror, you know, with Guantanamo being a symbol of the new dark ages, I think the world is hungry for optimistic stories. I think there's a -- there's a growing sense that all these new technologies have the power to unite us and, like evil, good itself exists. And, I think, it's very rare that we're given a glimpse of this kind of positive global consciousness. But it's my opinion that it's much wider spread than mass media would let us know.
REHMLet's go now to Tyson's Corner, Va. Good morning, Joanne.
JOANNEGood morning. One of the ministers of our church was telling us about attending the national prayer breakfast and the man who was the headliner, who organized everyone, was speaking -- sorry, I'm in a grocery store. And they were translating for this miner and he realized that they were not translating accurately. They kept giving him the credit for organizing the miners and giving them the skills to bring them together and help them survive. He said, no, what I was doing was bringing them God's word. I was uniting them in Christ. And they were -- you know, it was their faith and their prayers, to a large extent, that gave them the reserve and the information that they needed to try and find an escape.
REHMWhat about that, Jonathan? What road did religion play or Christ play in the hearts and minds of these men?
FRANKLINThe men were quite united in their daily prayer. At first, there was a little bit of reluctance because there was evangelicals and Catholics and different faith. But the preacher, Don Jose Enriques, had this amazing ability to bring the men together, not necessarily for the same God or for the same intonations of -- or callings for help, but the sense of a brotherhood among them. And he was very instrumental in their well being. And I believe that many of the men had deep religious experiences underground. It wasn't noticed by many people, but when they came up, quite a few had tee shirts that say, Jesus saves. And just like -- there are no atheists in fox holes nor are there many atheists in a mine shaft.
REHMHere's another view from Bram in St. Louis who says, "This story may revive your faith in human beings, but it doesn't do the same for me. There was an opportunity here to really expose and really change some atrocious working policies that led to the event, policies to which the Chilean president is complicit. But we failed. Instead, by focusing solely on the 33 miners, we've empowered one of the very men who made this accident inevitable." What would you say, Jonathan?
FRANKLINI totally disagree because the president of Chile had only been in power, at the time, for about four or five months. And this mine had been major, major safety complaints and accidents for over a decade. And so I think that while you might be able to blame the Chilean government for letting this mine be open, that criticism would fall on the previous governments who Mr. Pinera was an opponent to. And I also think that people fail to recognize that even before the mine collapsed, Pinera had sought to double the mine inspection budget. After the mine collapse, he decided to triple it.
FRANKLINBut the real problem here, I believe, also, is that with commodity prices going through the roof, copper and gold mining is so lucrative that there's a lot of illegal mines operating. You can't inspect a mine that's not on your list of approved mines. So even though they might have shut down a couple hundred mines, you know, a few people could get together and open a mine and start harvesting old tailings which are suddenly worth a fortune.
FRANKLINSo I think it's pretty disingenuous to blame Pinera when the previous government had ignored multiple signs that this mine was among the most dangerous in the entire nation.
REHMAll right. To Acton, Mass., good morning, Jane.
JANEGood morning. I want to thank the author for writing this book. It is so interesting to hear all about these experiences. I want to reaffirm that in times of dire stress, people do rise to the occasion. You know, do times make the man or do men make the times? And I think that we would all come through. We would all rise to the occasion. And that's kind of what I wanted to say.
REHMHum, I think you would agree with that, Jonathan.
FRANKLINYeah, I do. I do think that we vastly underestimate the ability of people to rise to the occasion.
REHMNow, to Miami, Fla., good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning, Diane.
JOHNYes, good morning. Thank you for having this program. I just want to say that it's been, obviously, a remarkable experience for everyone. My wife is from Chile. We have two daughters. And seeing that last August, thinking the miners were already gone and seeing when they finally got through after 17 days, that was just a remarkable thing. And I know, all around the world, especially for in Chile, all the international cooperation has been incredibly tremendous to see take place and to help these gentlemen to be rescued and -- but going to an e-mail that you had a few minutes ago, there needs to be follow up because I believe it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 something miners die on an annual basis in Chile.
JOHNSo there really needs -- if there were just some adequate, like, supplies, they may have been able to get out in many other instances, too, in other mines in Chile. So I just want to say there should be continued follow up, obviously there, but in many other places.
FRANKLINWell, what you do notice now in Chile is every time there's a mining accident and every time a miner dies -- and it's as the caller suggests, it's remarkably frequent. But I think this was anonymous before. We didn't really pay attention to the miners who died in Chile and I believe that now it's a big story. And it's going to be an ongoing story. The modern biggest mines in Chile are very responsible and very safety conscious, but there's a lot of mom and pop operations that are still confused. The big mines see safety as an investment and the small mines see safety as a cost.
REHMInteresting. We are talking with Jonathan Franklin. His new book is titled, "33 Men," and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an e-mail from Jamie in Waterford, Conn., who says, "I saw the Chilean miners as the heroes of 2010 and watched as every miner came out of the mine. But it was widely reported that after their rescue, they had agreed that no one individually would profit from their experience. I had to wonder why they did not change their minds and, at least, allow them all to profit in some way as one." What do you think, Jonathan?
FRANKLINWell, it took the miners some time to come to some agreement on that. And what they've done now is formed a corporation, all 33 hired some of the best lawyers in Chile and in Hollywood and they will be represented by William Morris Endeavor and they will be able to shop around and sell their film. The problem is there is this expectation that when you have a great story, you fly to Hollywood, sign a piece of paper and get rich. The reality is Hollywood can take years so I do believe these men will make a beautiful, wonderful movie. I just don't think it will be any time soon.
REHMBut isn't that the problem? What happens to them in the meantime?
FRANKLINThey are likely to win a lawsuit fairly soon. That would be very helpful because they would get $50,000 to $100,000 apiece from the mining company. The company does have some very important assets, which the miners will eventually get. They are being paid a stipend by their law firm in anticipation of the movie deal. So they're being -- they're being floated, I think it's $2,000 a month each, which in Chile would -- is a fair amount of money. That's probably close -- probably double what they were making before. That will help tide them over, but there's a real gap between the expectations of the men.
FRANKLINThey really did believe the hype that Brad Pitt was going to fly to Chile and make the movie tomorrow. And the reality is that Hollywood's not quick. Hollywood's not easy. Anybody who's involved in the movie industry knows there's a million things that could go wrong so the good thing they've done is they've hired William Morris. They've got the best professional representation possible. They've got good lawyers and they're speaking with a single voice. I think it took them some time to kind of round up all those agreements because 33 people individually could never arrange a movie deal.
REHMAnd what about psychological help in the meantime?
FRANKLINThat's more of a wild card. There's -- since my book's come out and since I've been commenting on their need for help, I've been flooded with people writing me e-mails, which people can see at jonathanfranklin.com if people have suggestions. But a lot of people are writing me saying, you know, this treatment or that treatment. I do think the Chilean government is re-evaluating that the types and level of their commitment to the miners. There's the miners themselves, like I said, are not often open to some of this treatment so there's a bit of a dance going on. The miners will have to figure out how much time they are personally willing to put into their own recovery.
FRANKLINThe government and the health insurance company have to figure out what strategy works because if the patient doesn't want the medicine, sometimes you have to change the form in which you deliver it.
REHMIndeed. Jonathan Franklin, thank you so much for being with us. This is a fascinating book, "33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners." Thank you, again.
FRANKLINThank you very much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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