“Deep Down Dark” reveals the story behind the tragedy of a mine disaster in the desert of Chile, on August 5, 2010. The many superstitions surrounding the collapsed mine, like it was a woman being violated when it creaked and groaned or caved in, or the mine was weeping for its plight, being hacked at constantly, added another dimension to the story as various paranormal moments took place in the darkness of its caverns or the darkness of the miner’s minds.
Each miner brought with him his own past, his own emotional and medical problems, his own desperate need for money to provide for the needs of wives, children, lovers and themselves. How the cave-in and the rescue and fame afterward affected them is varied, depending on each of the 33 men and their previous history, however, when the book ended, I was still left with unanswered questions as to where these men are today. Are the ones that returned to working in a mine still there, are their families still intact, are they still being chased by friends and family for loans from the money they were supposed to receive, but in fact did not receive in the quantities they expected, is the self-made pastor still preaching?
How these quite ordinary men, struggling to support their families in this dangerous profession, managed to survive can only be thought of as miraculous. With emergency supplies meant to last only two days and with men who broke into the food stores without realizing how long they would be trapped, diminishing that supply, one can only conclude that either a superhuman effort by these men provided them with a heretofore hidden inner strength, to live on practically nothing, or a supernatural power intervened. From this highly detailed and descriptive portrayal of their experience, gleaned from interviews, journals and diaries, notes and conversations the miners had with themselves, their relatives and the writer, the reader will draw his/her own conclusions. These were ordinary men exposed to extraordinary conditions and their fates even afterward are and continue to be fragile. These men entered the mine on August 5 and finally were rescued from its clutches on October 13, almost 2 ½ months later. A monumental effort went into their liberation!
The miners were uncomfortable with their ensuing fame but eager to make money from it. They were not sophisticated enough to know how to make the most of their situation. They worried that greed would make one of them take advantage for personal gain, so they made a pact that all monies earned from the telling of their tale in book or movie form would be shared. Speeches would be their own. It was actually very surprising to see how these men managed to get along most of the time, with only a few disagreements and fights in a time of such stress, in a place that resembled Hell with its heat, humidity, darkness and complete lack of anything resembling a modern convenience. They drank the water meant for machines. They subsisted on a spoonful of tuna and a cookie. They created their own latrine. They rationed and they shared everything. They nursed each other. Their optimism and courage stands as an example for all of us.
The Pulitzer Prize winning Tobar, breathed life into the story of these men, humanizing them by revealing their strengths and their frailties and including not only their harrowing story, but also the stories of their families and friends. Most who read this will be touched by the miner’s faith and the power of their prayers that sustained so many of them. They suffered from hunger, thirst, disease, fungi, mood swings, power plays, terror and the elements, but ultimately, they remained a tight knit team of men working together to support each other and survive.
How the world viewed them and how the media created them, first as heroes and then sometimes as villains, blaming them for costing the country millions in their rescue attempt, then blaming them because they chose to put their own lives at risk, will remind the reader of the world today with its petty squabbles, jealousy, greed and arrogance. Coupled with the driving need to be in the spotlight, which afflicts both the media and the media darlings too, as they make most people who gain fame nothing more than yoyos for their own benefit, these men were ready pawns.