Although the last of the trapped Chilean miners have finally emerged to cheers and hugs from family, onlookers at the Chilean embassy here in D.C. have stopped to watch the spectacle, which some are calling a miracle.
The JumboTron from Tuesday night’s watch party is still up at the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. "This is a symbol for the rest of the world," said one onlooker. "I’m very grateful to see the support from [the United States]."
We know now the happy outcome for all 33 miners, but earlier Wednesday, people were still anxious.
"Many of my team here at the embassy didn’t have any sleep," said Chilean Ambassador Arturo Fermandois. "We were looking one to the other miner... as President Piñera said, we are prepared for spending whatever it takes until the last miner is rescued."
Companies from all over the world have donated their services and equipment to the meticulous rescue operation, including a heart monitoring company from Annapolis, Md.
For the past two weeks, Zephyr Technology has equipped the miners with monitoring straps across their chests. While the miners exercised, doctors nearly a half-mile up on the surface could check their vital signs.
"Really, it’s just measuring the status, making sure they’re not declining," said Code Cubitt, Zephyr Technology CEO. "So we measure the same things that your doctor does, your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, temperature, those kinds of things."
But the critical part of this technology played out on the screen Wednesday, as one by one, the miners were reunited with their families.
"As they’re ascending up the drill hole, we’re watching their vital signs for various things like panic, hyperventilation, increased heart rate," said Cubitt. "Then the folks at the top who are monitoring them through video cameras and voice communication can help either talk them through it or they can do various other things [to] speed up [or] slow down."
Fan, Follow and Text: Get the latest from NBCWashington.com anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Sign up for our e-mail newsletters and get breaking news delivered right to your mobile phone -- just text DCBREAKING to 622339 to sign up. (Message and data rates may apply.)
Published at 8:16 PM EDT on Oct 13, 2010