Chilean Miner speaks at the Hall
Mario Sepulveda, one of the 33 miners from Chile who were trapped underground for 69 days, spoke about his experience in the mine and how it has affected his life.
“I thank God every day that I am alive,” Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda addressed a nearly-full Jubilee auditorium about his ordeal and the changes he has undergone since the San Jose mine, where he worked, collapsed on Aug. 5, 2010. The collapse left he and 32 others stranded approximately 2,300 feet underground until a successful rescue mission on Oct. 13, 2010.
For the first 17 days they were trapped, the men had no contact with the outside world.
“The first 17 days without communication there was a sense of the spirit of God within us,” he said in Spanish.
The presentation, entitled “A Message of Faith, Hope, Endurance and Leadership,” began with a prayer from the Rev. Stanley Gomes who also introduced Sepulveda.
After the prayer, which was conducted in Spanish, a video montage featuring footage of what both the miners and rescue teams had to endure in the struggle to rescue the men who came to be known as “los 33” or “the 33.”
While the footage was played Sepulveda became visibly emotional and began to tear.
“Up until now I had never watched the footage because truthfully I am not truly prepared,” Sepulveda, who was wearing traditional Chilean clothes, said. “The thing that makes me happy is that for 70 days, the word was truly united.”
Julie Fiol, the Consul General of Chile in New York, commented on the world’s unity during the time the miners were trapped.
“We are really committed and happy that the incident brought a long list of countries together to make this effort,” Fiol said.
Sepulveda encouraged students to take action.
“We could have a beautiful world one day,” he said. “And that is because of the young people like all of you here today.”
Jessica Argueta, a freshman from Union County College, was one of the students who spoke with Sepulveda in the question and answer segment.
“I found it really exciting and it was an honor to talk to a survivor,” she said. “Me, as a Latina and having Chilean family too, it kind of gives me hope that we can be so strong.”
Since he escaped the mine, Sepulveda has become the head of “Be Part of the Miracle,” an organization dedicated to rebuilding homes lost to the 2010 earthquake that devastated much of Chile.
Eva Serebinsky, who also spoke at the event, is the executive director of the Miner’s Miracle Project.
“We want to invite everyone to be a part of the miracle,” she said.
The event also featured a Skype session with Dr. Jean-Christophe Romagnoli, the physician who designed the series of activities the miners had to perform in order to stay in good health and be able to fit inside of the approximately 2-foot-wide rescue tube.
“Many of our fellow miners felt ridiculous but then we realized that it was serious and that the man who did not exercise would have to stay at the bottom forever,” Sepulveda said of the work out regime Romagnoli implemented from the surface.
Seton Hall donated an undisclosed amount to the Miner’s Miracle project. Sepulveda gifted a stone he removed from the mine to the University as a reminder of what happened and “to always be thankful for God and for your life.”
Alyana Alfaro can be reached at email@example.com.