Mine rescue draws scores of well-wishers to Chilean embassy in D.C.

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 10:30 PM

About 100 people milled outside the Chilean embassy Tuesday night to watch the mine rescue unfold and to send prayers and good wishes to the miners and their rescuers.

Outside the front entry to the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW, a jumbo television screen beamed live coverage from a Chilean network, and Chilean and U.S. flags flanked a podium and a smaller screen, where a continuously looping slideshow showed photos of the 33 miners.

Onlookers wore lapel stickers that carried the words of the first note written by the miners in the opening days of their ordeal: "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" - We are okay in the refuge.

Marco Droguett clung to the thought that all 33 remained well Tuesday night as he waited for the first trapped miner to be carried to the surface.

"It's definitely exciting because this is the day we have waited for. It's here. It's going to happen, I believe they will be fine," said Droguett, 36, a Chilean who works as a house manager for a private family and lives in Southwest Washington.

Near him stood a more anxious countryman, Cristian Weitzel, 37, of Northwest.

"This is very nerve-wracking," said Weitzel, who works in business development for Marriott. "It's only a celebration when all the miners are out. Until then, it's a vigil."

Some passing drivers shouted and honked in support as they realized what had drawn the crowd to the embassy.

Such sentiments were in keeping with support that the Chilean embassy staff has witnessed from strangers, said Alejandro Buvinic, an attache working on economic issues at the embassy.

During the past several weeks, the embassy has received packets of encouraging letters, poems and drawings from schoolchildren as far away as Alaska; they were all forwarded to the miners. Those simple outpourings came alongside offers of technical expertise, equipment and financial help that also reached the embassy, said Buvinic.

Behind him on a table, one more memento was in the making: a guest book where the night's visitors jotted messages of good will and thanksgiving, in English and Spanish, in words exuberant and hopeful.

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