Most of the 33 rescued miners are waking up this morning next to their loved ones for the first time in ten weeks.
All but two have left the hospital Friday, some in cars that pushed through crowds, others through a side door to avoid the media frenzy. Two miners were transferred to other hospitals.
The miners are enjoying their welcome home celebration, revealing both their great happiness and great relief.
"The good thing about being outside," said miner Victor Segovia, is that if you have a nightmare and wake up, you realize you're outside. If you are inside and you have a dream, you wake up in a nightmare."
Jonathan Franklin, an investigative journalist who's covered the miners' story for the Washington Post and other papers (and who this week sold a book proposal on the trapped miners' experience to British publisher Transworld), said that the miners have faced a difficult transition adjusting to their new-found freedom.
"They've gone from one strange world to another," Franklin said on CBS' "The Early Show." "First they lived 700 meters underground in a dark, dank cave; now they've got the spotlights of the world on them. They are really not quite sure about this. They're confused, they're a little bit nervous. They've been besieged by the press; they've been followed by hordes of people. They're celebrities, they're famous. But deep down, they are wondering what this is all about.
"It will take some weeks for the miners to come back to reality," Franklin said. "They are not the same people that went down that mine ten weeks ago. One of the miners' wives said, 'My Raul who went down there is not the same Raul who came out.'"
Franklin said the miners still have to come to grips with what they experienced and suffered deep underground for nearly 2.5 months. "They really are very, very in shock, still," he said.
He also suggested that the miners are now missing the sense of unity they relied upon in order to survive. "Some of the miners . . . what the miners are really looking for is a sense of union. They are feeling scared. When they were underground they were a unified group. It was them against the world and they could do no wrong.
"Now that they are up here, it's kind of 'every man for himself.' It's been very difficult for the miners to adjust to this idea of being alone.
The unity was hard-won after the initial days of entombment, when stress, despair and fear resulted in fistfights, Franklin reported in The Washington Post reports.
"As strange as it sounds, underground they had a sense of union, a sense of purpose. Now, each one is home with his family, with the TV, with all the pressure. And it's just been a very difficult transition. What we're seeing is the miners are almost longing to be back in that group together."
The first 17 days before the men were discovered were extremely intense. There was infighting among them that came to blows, even feelings of despair, Franklin reported in The Washington Post reports.
"They just have this longing to be back together. It's not going to be easy. They're going to probably get together every year, and they want to create a foundation. They talk about all the good things that came out of this. As strange as it sounds, we think that maybe they suffered the whole time, but the miners talked about how they had a great sense of humor underground. They bonded with each other. It's been a remarkable experience for all of them, and being alone on the surface is becoming very difficult."
The most difficult transition may be for miner Johnny Barrios,
When Barrios was trapped, both his wife and his mistress came to the mine looking for information - and both learned quite a bit.
When Barrios was lifted to the surface, it was Valenzuela who was there.
Late yesterday, his girlfriend Susana Valenzuela got a barbecue ready to throw a welcome home party for her boyfriend. She hung a sign reading, "I love you, my Tarzan."
There are celebrations planned across the city, but this is a homecoming that has interested people around the world because when Barrios comes home, he'll be coming to his mistress's house, not his wife's house just down the street.
Marta Salinas said she has no plans to see her philandering husband.
"If he wants to see me or talk to me he can come find me," Salinas told the Daily Mail of London. "Otherwise we can talk through our lawyers."
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