At a time of division and rancour, the successful mission to save the boys’ football team offers inspiration

A saga that has gripped so many began almost three weeks ago, when 12 boys and their football coach slipped into a cave in northern Thailand to explore one afternoon, and were trapped by fast-rising waters. It ended on Tuesday with the announcement that all were now free and safe. As 13 families celebrate, one more is mourning: Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy diver, lost his life in the rescue effort. And while the boys are well enough to request their favourite meal and not too much homework, the months ahead will offer challenges as daunting in their way as the recent ordeal.

Nonetheless, the jubilation around the world is real and heartfelt. This was a saga in its unfolding: 18 days is a long time in a world of social media and rolling news; and they encompassed dimming hopes, a sudden discovery, and the race against time to save the boys and their coach. In myth and folklore, caves are both enticing and forbidding, often invoked as the gateway into another world; children straying into jeopardy is another recurrent theme. Yet what made this story so powerful and absorbing was seeing humanity at its best: this is a tale of innocence protected; of perseverance against the odds and heroism in the face of danger; above all, of triumph over despair.

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