This story has really gripped me. I have been worrying about those boys all week and trying not to think of them starving in the dark for nine days while the water level got higher and higher. That they were still mentally strong and calm when they were found is probably thanks to their coach.
To be honest, given the situation I did not imagine a good outcome no matter what they decided to do. Bad air, rising water as heavy rains started, monsoon season, the rescuer dying, the mental and physical stress of being trapped so far underground, the danger and degree of difficulty of the rescue. I am so glad that, at the time of writing this, four boys had been rescued.
I read the text below the other day, from Daily Mail columnist Rachel Johnson. I am usually sceptical and angry with the Daily Mail when I read their articles, but these paragraphs really resonated with me. I have been pondering about this for days.
The boys and the coach, Ekkapol Chantawong – my son’s age, a mere child – are all in mortal danger. There’s no guarantee they will come out alive. There’s every chance they won’t.
In this country, and in the US, the blame game would already be in extra time. The coach would have been shamed and shot in the public squares of social media and by health and safety Nazis for putting so many young lives in danger.
The parents – even the school dog – would have lawyered up. The family of the coach would have gone into hiding.
In Thailand, we have not heard a single word of recrimination or outbreak of hysteria from anyone.The parents are sitting powerless in a camp rigged up by the entrance to the cave system, as the rescue grinds on. Not one has, to date, gone into full Greek tragedy mode, shrieking and raging, as I would if my son was sitting in the dark miles from me, facing death.
The mothers sit smiling bravely. ‘I want to thank everyone who helped,’ says one.
Over the weekend, boys sent out handwritten notes to their parents, begging them not to worry, saying they are fine, even happy. They tell their parents they love their sisters, their grandparents. And the special dishes they want to eat when they’re home.
The coach writes too. Brave. What can he say? Well, this.
‘To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologise to the parents.’
It was an adventure that turned into an accident. They went so deep into the caves by mistake. He’s sorry. It’s heartbreaking. And instructive.
In contrast, when Elon Musk sent engineers and scientists to help in the rescue efforts in response to a Tweet for help, he was pilloried and accused of using this situation to get publicity for himself and his company. Even if he was, isn’t the help of a tech-savvy billionaire with a company that specialises in many of the fields required during this rescue effort more important than anything else?
Actually, having written this, I realise how much I cannot stand keyboard warriors and armchair experts, who always know how to do everything better than the people actually in the trenches, so to speak…