Millions breathe a global sigh of relief as boys emerge safely from Thai cave

Last Updated Jul 11, 2018 1:49 AM EDT

Ambulances aren't usually a cause for celebration. But by the end of the two-week ordeal, the ambulances carrying the lost boys and coach of a Thai boys soccer team also held the common hopes of millions wishing for one fewer tragedy in our news feeds.

It all started when members of the team disappeared into a cave in northern Thailand. They were exploring it as a kind of team-building exercise. A dozen players, none older than 16, left bikes and cleats at the entrance when floodwater forced them deep into the cave.

As parents gathered in anguish, a team of experts came together to locate the boys, including some 90 divers lead by the Thai Navy SEALs and representing some of the best and most far-flung aspects of humanity.

It was two British divers who finally found the team. That moment inspired another worldwide outpouring of support. One of the Chilean miners trapped for months in another underground rescue in 2010 told the boys it's OK to be afraid.

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo said, "The world of soccer is hoping someone can get the boys out," and billionaire Elon Musk offered engineers to help do exactly that.

The mission would not be without tragedy. A retired Thai Navy SEAL died while replacing air tanks for other divers along the rescue route. In the early hours of Tuesday morning -- as the world was holding its breath -- the last of the of the boys and their coach were rescued from the cave.

It was once again clear what's possible in a world that isn't defined by competition or conflict, but by teamwork -- the very thing these young players were hoping to learn.

Thailand's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Vitavas Srivihok, made a point of how many experts came to Thailand's aid from other nations, reports CBS News' Pamela Falk. "I cannot stress enough that this would not be possible without the strength, solidarity and partnership from each and every single person involved and the help or the offer to help that came pouring in from every corner of the world," he told Falk.

"On behalf of the Royal Thai Government and the Thai people, we would like to express our sincere appreciation and deepest gratitude to all our friends from around the world who have offered a helping hand, with absolutely no discrimination with regard to race, age, gender, or status," Srivihok said.

"At the end of the day, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel," he added.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked people involved in the rescue during a televised national address Wednesday. The Associated Press says he cited the efforts of people in his nation and abroad, his government, and the outpouring of moral support.