Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's been just over a year since a copper mine collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 men underground and alive. The world watched as they managed to survive half a mile below the surface for 69 days. And then after a dramatic rescue, they ascended as celebrities. One of the journalists who reported on the scene was Jonathan Franklin. He's had close access to the miners since their escape, and we reached him in Santiago.

What made you want to follow the lives of these men after they escaped the mine?

Mr. JONATHAN FRANKLIN (Journalist, Author, "33 Men"): Well, I've been a journalist long enough to know that fame is very fleeting. And you could kind of see this set-up, where these working-class heroes were dumped into the media treadmill. These guys had no idea how to work with the media with this dose of fame. And it's also a bit of a schizophrenic existence. You know, one day they're in a five-star hotel in Tel Aviv and then right after, that they fly home to Chile - where maybe they dont even have running water.

INSKEEP: Well, how many of them ended up trying to go back to their old lives, just be miners again?

Mr. FRANKLIN: Two of them have gone back to working in the mines. And the rest of them are looking for work. Some of them have vegetable stands; some of them are truck drivers. One is even a boxing promoter. Psychologically, a lot of them would say, I'm going back to mining. I'm a tough guy. Im a miner.

But I remember one of them explaining that he lasted two minutes, and he was so scared that he got dizzy and he ran out of the mine. Another man, when he started looking at the mouth of the mine, he started crying. And I said to him, but Victor, you're out, you survived. And he said yeah, but my happiness is still inside there.

INSKEEP: I wonder about post-traumatic stress. Did any of them suffer from what could be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress after this experience?

Mr. FRANKLIN: When I spoke to the doctors and the health officials, they said that 32 of the 33 were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. Some of them had nightmares; some of them had trouble relating to their children; others were fighting with their wives. One man was building a big wall around his house - literally, I mean, he was building like, a four-meter-high wall all around his house.

When I speak to these men, they talk about going to the psychiatrist, taking lots and lots of pills. But you get this sense, when you talk to them, that there's been no collective or group effort to solve these traumas.

INSKEEP: So 32 of the 33 were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. What about the one?

Mr. FRANKLIN: The only one who wasn't was the preacher, and he really was able to avoid a lot of the psychological problems. His unbending faith, and his leadership role, really allowed him to have done very well. He really seems to have skirted a lot of the problems that torment his fellow miners.

INSKEEP: It's troubling to hear this because these miners were such an inspiration to people at the time because they worked together under pressure, because they organized a little society for a while. And it is sad to hear that there's an aftermath to that. There's still a price for them to pay.

Mr. FRANKLIN: Yeah, I believe they had this really incredible ability to create a unified community underground. But what they've told me is what really messed up their life was television. They sent a television down there and a projector. And from the moment they turned on the TV, they started to have all sorts of discipline problems, and they started getting in fights over what they were going to watch. Some people stopped doing the chores - and just watching TV all day.

And a lot of that group feeling fell apart. By the end, they were even sending back the food saying, you know, the desserts aren't warm enough. Or they would send back their iPods saying that they didn't like the music selection. So there's this real dichotomy between the union they had when they were completely cut off from the world and they had their own society, and this bickering and conflicts that began once the television and other so-called conveniences were put down to them.

INSKEEP: I wonder if that change is going to be reflected in the movie that's going to be made of them, now that they've just recently sold the movie rights.

Mr. FRANKLIN: It's hard to know about the movie. We've heard lots of rumors, and there's been all sorts of speculation. But I think that this is finally the real deal. In this case, they've been very unified, and the 33 men have agreed to share all revenue from the movie. And they have a great Hollywood producer, a big team behind them. So I think that they finally will get their movie off the ground. And that should be a huge psychological boost as well as some cash. I think that the men need to feel loved again. They feel abandoned at this point.

INSKEEP: Journalist Jonathan Franklin wrote a book, called "33 Men," about the Chilean miners who were rescued a year ago. Thanks very much.

Mr. FRANKLIN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: