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What the new photo of the Thai cave boys tells us about their ordeal | News

Written by Thailand News

Where are the fists raised in triumph? Where are the big front-page grins? A photograph released by the Thai health ministry of the 12 boys rescued against all odds from the depths of the flooded Tham Luang cave is a picture editor’s nightmare and a human marvel. Instead of raucous celebration, this is a picture about memory and mourning. In an age with the attention span of a US president, these boys can see beyond the amnesia of happy endings.

They are gathered with respect around a portrait of Saman Kunan, who died in the otherwise successsful effort to save them. Kunan, a former navy Seal, was placing spare oxygen in underwater passages when his own air ran out. In the photograph, the children and teenagers he died for show their unfeigned understanding of the scale of his sacrifice. Not a single face reveals a hint of a false note. Amid the relief and joy of a rescue beyond what seemed possible, here is an image of absolute truth. Yes, it was a success, but a man is dead. His portrait is cherished by those he helped to save with a sincerity that cuts through the routine dishonesty of our time.

For the gravity in these young faces is surely not only a moment of remembrance. It is the truth about their ordeal. There will be smiles, of course, and so there should be. Hopefully, they will be laughing soon as if the whole thing never happened. Yet that is their business. It is not their job to smile for the world when they have just been to hell and back. How did they manage to keep sane and calm for nine days underground? How did the rescuers maintain their hope that somehow the lost football team were still alive?

Perhaps because human beings are at their best when they are truly tested. Perhaps also because the darkness and isolation of being far underground in a rocky world forces a sense of our shared existence as a species. Only the courage and love of strangers who stopped being strangers could light up that darkness. It is recognition of this overwhelming spirit of altruism that makes for such a powerful moment. The respect the saved show for Kunan is one more layer of human goodness in this adventure that reminds us how much better we could all be.

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