“It is still hard….. lots of people think the 33 miners are out there, having fun and making loads of money. But what we’ve gone through, has scarred us forever.”
Those are the words of Omar Reygadas, the 17th miner to emerge from the depths of the mine where he and 33 others spent little over two months.
Today, it seems trivial, the whole thing seems dreamlike, providing a strange sense of security that suggests that every emergency in the modern world is attended to in the same prompt and cinematically epic way of operation Phoenix.
Indeed, we seem to forget that not able to find them for a few days, Chile was very close to assume they were dead, and stop looking. We seem to forget that once that world renown note surfaced, it was expected they’d spend Christmas underground, the 33 could still be down there!
But they are not. They are out and have been to Spain, Hollywood and the UK. They have planned trips to Disney in Florida, Israel and Greece. All 33 made it out safely, but all 33 have in common a deep struggle, coping with the aftermath of their entrapment and rescue, both physically and mentally, as well as financially, and as it relates to the intense pressure of the media.
Despite being international heroes, life for these humble men has turned complicated, busy, overwhelming, and a lot of them present persisting psychological problems.
“I can never sleep before four or five in the morning” says Reynadas “and I hate to be alone, I find myself crying.”
Reynadas is taking medication for his anxiety, and trusts the word of doctors, who say he will be better soon.
“There’s a great risk for depression” warns Adib Merlez, the psychologist that will treat the miners through next year.
Merlez worries about the miners relationship with the media, and cites the case of Franklin Lobos, the miner that played for the Chile soccer team.
“He changed, and not for good” Merlez said ‘Before the accident I spoke to him frequently, but now he doesn’t have time for us.”
After the rescue, every miner received a check for $10,000 a courtesy of millionaire Leonardo Farkas. As a result, some of the miners found out their families had grown, rich with members that they had never met, or seen in years.
In the two months since the 33 miners were rescued from the San José mine in northern Chile on Oct. 13, more than 35 businesses have applied to register more than a hundred brand names related to the rescue mission. Beyond winemakers focusing on international exports, restaurant entrepreneurs, adventure tourism companies, and jewelry stores are looking to turn a profit by exploiting the number 33. Several books, movies and TV shows about the event are in production, however the miners have not seen revenue from it yet. Carlos Mamani, the Bolivian miner still lives with his girlfriend in a precarious house outside Copiapó, without even running water.
Most miners make due with money signed off to them by their health insurances. Some, feel the government has abandoned them. Mario Gomez, the eldest miner is unemployed, and his partner fears for him and their future. “He can’t comeback to work because he’s not good. He’s not good psychologically, has constant headaches and is losing his hair” she said.
The Chilean government met with most of the 33 and offered them jobs in the state run mine “Codelco,” and arranged for the men to hire Carey y Cía, the largest law firm in Chile, to handle their intellectual property cases.