IN years to come, it will sound like the most unbelievable sort of Hollywood action thriller.
A soccer team and their coach go into a cave in Thailand and don’t come out. Days and days pass and just when hope has almost completely been extinguished, divers find the trapped team members deep inside the cave complex – but aren’t immediately sure how to bring them to safety.
The world’s expertise is mobilised. Those with experience or knowledge to share fly in from various parts of the globe. Preparations proceed painstakingly until the boys and their coach are carefully extracted over a series of nail-biting days.
And an heroic former Thai Navy SEAL gives his life in this extended, excruciating rescue attempt.
It reads like an invention of Tinsel Town, but those of us who have followed the extraordinary events of the past few weeks will be able to confirm in years to come that, yes, it all happened.
And that, yes, people all over the world were watching, waiting, holding their breath.
But why this story? Why this event?
The Thai cave rescue was gripping, it is true, and a story of survival against the odds – but those sorts of stories can be found in any corner of the globe in our era of instant information, and they don’t all galvanise people the way this one has.
The Thai cave rescue was also a story of innocents caught up in a situation beyond their control, of fortitude and resilience shown in the most trying conditions – but, again, this is a story that can be found elsewhere if you are looking.
Perhaps what the world saw – and liked – in the Thai cave story was something else: the spirit of co-operation.
In the speed with which help arrived from around the world, the willingness to drop everything to get on a plane and offer assistance, perhaps we saw something that we appreciated – and we wanted to see more of it.
If there was a Hollywood element to this story, it might have been the idea that strangers would come together to help save strangers in a cave complex in Thailand – watched and cheered on by other strangers in lounge rooms and workplaces.
There was a pure goodheartedness about it, a satisfying sense of shared humanity.
And here’s the question: how long did we think about some of the lessons of this story before we reached for the television remote and wondered aloud what else was on?