Photo Courtesy of Thai Navy Seals
In the cartoon:
Thirteen boars can be seen swimming through the cave surrounded by a host of other animals - each representing a nation or expert team that have joined the united effort to help them to safety.
White Elephant : The governor Narongsak
Wild Boars : The children and the coach
White horse : All heroes involved in the mission. You are the knight in shining armour riding the white horse to help us.
Seal : Thai NavySEALs
Frog : all world-class divers
Lion : rescuers from England
Kangaroo : rescuers from Australia
Panda : rescuers from China
Crane : rescuers from Japan
Moose : rescuers from Sweden
Tiger : rescuers from Myanmar
Brown Elephant : rescuers from Laos
Dog : K9 unit
Dragon : water pumping team
Eagle : rescuers from USA
Iron man : Elon MuskBirds : media
Now all of us have new stories to tell our children when they ask about superheroes, but not Spiderman, Captain America or Iron Man.
It’s the Thai Navy SEALs and divers from overseas who converged to rescue 12 boys and their football coach who had become stranded in Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand.
To list the number of people who contributed to the effort would take too long, but those incredibly brave divers, whose pure humble heroism gave people goosebumps, were the true superheroes.
On Tuesday, after almost three weeks of breathtaking drama, international collaboration and co-ordinated selflessness, the last members of the rescue team emerged from the flooded Tham Luang Cave Complex victorious after all the stranded victims had been brought out alive. The cave was empty again.The drama started on June 23 when the coach took 12 of his young players on an expedition into the cave complex in Chiang Rai, Thailand, only for heavy rain to flood the cave and leave them trapped underground.
It must have been a nightmare for them, but the daring rescue plan hatched by Thai authorities and the incredible bravery and expertise shown by all the divers and the rescue team went beyond belief.
On July 2, British diver John Volanthen found the kids and their coach about two miles from the mouth of the cave, just as he had reached the end of his dive line.
As the world rejoiced with Thai people when news of the team being found alive, authorities warned that rescuing the boys would be a daunting task.
The cave complex has never been fully mapped. Thai Navy SEAL Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew told the media that the water was dark and that the mission would be brutal.
Regardless, Thai officials and Navy SEALs and expert divers from abroad all threw themselves into it.
They tried everything they could, including searching for a back door to the cave and drilling holes from the mountain above in the hope of lifting the boys out, but to no avail.
During all this time, four Thai divers stayed with them, nursing them back to health and feeding them a high-protein diet.
Tham Luang Cave, about two miles from the border with Myanmar, was formed by an underground river that flows during the monsoon season.
The cave also is a maze of passageways and chambers, with side routes and dead ends that make it formidable to navigate, especially when it fills with water.
To reach the 12 boys and their coach took a six-hour underground and was a treacherous journey even for the most experienced cave divers: swimming in blackness and harsh currents and squeezing through tiny passages. Meanwhile, the terrain varies from one area to the next — from a sandy bed to deep mud and boulders the size of a house.
The death of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan, who lost consciousness and died last Friday after placing spare air tanks along the cave to prepare for the evacuation, underscored the dangers of the mission. He ran out of air himself.
But other divers continued his work, bringing in air tanks and placing them at designated points along the route to where the group were holed up.
The rescue plan was to have two divers ferrying each of the children safely through a nearly three-mile maze of perils. It was a daunting task, all the more so since none of the children were able to swim, much less use diving gear.
Most of us who are not expert divers would never be able to imagine the conditions in the caves. And it becomes even scarier to think of having to slither through 40cm gaps in the rocks or removing air tanks to squeeze through tunnels in the blackness.
But these divers did it. And they did it well. Even 38-year-old Saman Gunan who died. He was reported to have left the navy but returned to aid in the rescue operation. Narongsak Osottanakorn, the head of the search operation, praised him as the hero of Tham Luang Cave.
These are the people we can unequivocally call superheroes – the divers we may never hear of but are there when we need them. The ones who voluntarily take on the risks and dangers to search and bring the victims out safe and sound in harsh conditions. The ones who witnessed the death of a colleague yet decided to go back in. The ones who say: “If you’re a Navy SEAL, yes, you’ll sacrifice yourself.”
The three-week story has touched us all because apart from the pure yet incredible bravery and expertise of the divers, every other detail of it has the element of a wonderful spirit of co-operation, determination, precious human tolerance and beautiful selflessness. Because it was different from the ugly politics we see every day, and a contrast to the decision by US President to separate immigrant children from their parents. It was in contrast to wars, atrocities, ethnic conflicts and crises afflicting countries like Syria and South Sudan.
It was the fact that more than 1,000 people came to help with the rescue operation, some crossing continents to save the children.
It was the fact the Thai Government decided to protect the boys and their families from the cameras: all we could see from live TV reports were ambulances and helicopters.
It was the mother of Nattawut Takamsai, one of the 12 boys, who wrote to Ekkapol Chantawong, the coach, ensuring him that “no parents were angry with you at all, so don’t worry about that”.
It was the coach, who sent his apologies to the boys’ parent, who was said to have given his share of the meager food supply to the boys during their 10-day ordeal before they were found. He even taught them how to meditate during that difficult time.
And it was the Thai Navy SEALs, who risked their lives to save the boys and later paid tribute to those around the world for helping in the dramatic rescue bid with a cute cartoon shared on their Facebook page illustrating the huge international effort to pull the youngsters out of the flooded cave.
What we have seen was not a random act of kindness but a true example of international co-operation and beautiful selflessness.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, or science, or what,” the Thai Navy SEALs posted on their Facebook page. “All the 13 Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”
No, they ARE the miracle.—VNS