Faith in rescuing

After a major disaster or an interesting person goes missing, reporters often do follow-up stories to capture the intensity and emotion during the often-terrifying experience.

In this case, several international outlets are following the story in Chile where 33 miners have been trapped for 17 days deep inside a collapsed mine. All are alive and communicating, but it could take up to four months to free them.

Of course, you have to wonder how they will eat, exercise and, well, stay sane. They have been told to stay thin (under a 35-inch waistline) to play cards, sing and exercise, and rescuers are telling them that it will take four months to get them out.

The Associated Press reports that they are living on high-calorie, protein-enriched drinks now. MSNBC reports that rescuers are sending down games and antidepressants.

In a country where 71 percent of the population is Catholic, does faith play a role at all in the communication? For example, are they communicating with a priest or some kind of chaplain? Religion might not be part of the story, which is fine, it might be too soon to weed out that angle, or reporters might not be bothered to report it.

On the other hand, the Salt Lake Tribune has a fabulous follow-up story about people trying to rescue a 26-year-old from after he was trapped in a cave right before Thanksgiving last year (h/t Melissa Nann Burke). Here’s part 1 and part 2.

Throughout the story, the rescuers–many of whom are Mormon–tell the reporter of how they sung hymns, prayed, and talked about their faith. Here’s an example of how the religion played into the drama.

Knowing help was on the way steeled Josh for another trip down the tunnel to take the friend’s place. The brothers made small talk to take their minds out of the cave. They talked about Josh’s girlfriend, whether he should follow John into medical school. They sang the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
Again, they prayed.
“I’m so sorry. Father, just get me out of here. Save me for my wife and kids,” John said.

The series is 5,400 words–amazing for a daily newspaper. It’s encouraging to see editors committed to long-form journalism because that’s often where you have the time and space to tease out those kinds of religious details.

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  • Jerry

    The series is 5,400 words—amazing for a daily newspaper. It’s encouraging to see editors committed to long-form journalism because that’s often where you have the time and space to tease out those kinds of religious details.

    In this twitter era, what you write is so true. The story had to be that long for the situation to really come alive for the reader and for those religious details to come out.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Jerry, I think you’re spot on. When I write headlines, for instance, in twitter, I end up cutting out words that help give it better context.

    Print space has become so precious that it seems like 400-500 word stories are becoming the norm. It’s hard to ask for specific details, more nuance, etc. with that kind of word count. I think we saw this with the AP memo, telling employees to not avoid the term “ground zero mosque.”
    Their suggestions inevitably take up more words. It takes time and space to tell stories thoroughly.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Someone sent me a tip that the Guardian writes that the men have a place where they pray.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I googled “Chile miner’s shrine” and there is a long list of religious sites that are reporting the miner’s are setting up a shrine to pray near and they have requested some saint’s statues and a crucifix. Almost all the stories seem to have originated with CNN. Whether the story will go beyond CNN in the mainstream media remains to be seen.

  • Dave

    Tonight’s (Friday) PBS News Hour reported that the miners had set a time for prayer in the daily routine they have established for themselves, and have set aside a space in their cavern for prayer. IIRC none of the talking heads, however, mentioned religion as a factor of how the miners are keeping it together.