Thirteen of the 33 men who had been trapped underground for 69 days in Chilean mine returned to the site of their entrapment Sunday for a private thanksgiving mass.
The miners were joined by their families and loved ones, as well as a handful of local officials, who all celebrated their release last Wednesday.
Many of their colleagues reportedly did not attend as they were still recovering from their ordeal or resting from family celebrations.
About 20 would later attend another mass Tuesday outside of the San Jose mine in Chile, where the vice-president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference thanked the miners and their families for their example of strength, solidarity, unity and drive to live.
"The men have been very moved, particularly today,” Bishop Gonzalo Duarte, who spoke at both masses, said Sunday.
“They almost couldn’t take the emotion,” he added, according to the U.K.-based Daily Mail.
For over two months, the 33 men trapped inside the San Jose mine had clung to the hope of a rescue. Half a mile below ground, the men endured weeks without sunlight, fresh air, and their loved ones, many of which waited above as the rescue effort unfolded.
Though the miners were sent food, water, supplies, and even items to pass the time – including MP3 players containing the New Testament and “The Story of Jesus” – health professionals had been very concerned for their physical and psychological welfare.
Miraculously, however, all 33 men were pulled out to safety Wednesday in "Phoenix" escape capsules that were lowered and brought up through the hole that rescuers dug over the course of a month. And almost all were rescued in good medical condition.
Only one miner, Victor Zamora, remains in the care of doctors and he is expected to remain under medical observation until at least Tuesday after undergoing serious dental surgery.
"It was 75 percent engineering and 25 percent a miracle," topographer Macarena Valdes commented, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Notably, the 33 men are now recorded as having survived the longest time underground after a mining accident. The total cost of the rescue operation was estimated between US$10–20 million.