I confess that I hardly glanced at the first few stories that were in the news; what do I know about or have to do with mining or miners? I understood from the headlines that there had been some kind of accident, an explosion, and the fate of these miners was unknown. But that was all I knew and, I'm embarrassed to say, that was all I cared.

The next morning I was surprised to see that this mining story was still front page. This time, I read the article. On the early morning of January 2, 2006, an explosion had ripped through the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, West Virginia, flooding the mine with poisonous gases. No contact had yet been made with the thirteen miners trapped in the mine, time was passing and the situation didn't look too good. I looked at the pictures of the family members anxiously awaiting some kind of report. I felt for them. And I basically figured that it wouldn't be long before they would discover the bodies.

So I was absolutely shocked when the next time I checked there was this incredible headline, "MINERS ALIVE!" I found myself feeling really happy. Happy for those families that had been waiting so nervously all those long and painful hours. Happy to know that not every news story has to have a terrible ending. Happy to know that in my pessimism I was completely wrong.

Truly it was nothing less than a miracle. Here was an explosion of a deadly gas, the miners had been trapped for over 30 hours, and suddenly there was news that they were alive. How? It simply didn't make sense, and yet I never even questioned it. They were alive. G‑d makes miracles and clearly this was one. I thought about the Jewish teaching that even if the sword is against our throat, we must never despair. We may never take our own life, for at that last, very split second, G‑d can always save us. I wondered how it must have felt for the miners when they were discovered alive. I wondered if they had been sure that they would die, only to live the true meaning of this teaching.

I glanced at the pictures of ecstatic family members hugging and calling their loved ones. I went to bed that night feeling truly content, sharing the joy of people I didn't know and never would, feeling inspired and excited that we all had just experienced such an open miracle.

I couldn't believe the headlines the next morning. Suddenly there was only one survivor. They had all died. All of them. I read the article with tears in my eyes. How could they have gotten it so wrong? How could it be that they allowed these people to believe that their family members had survived, only to find out that they hadn't?

For the past three days, a group of people focused on nothing more than praying and hoping that their loved ones would be found alive. And they weren't the only ones; anyone who had read the story, anyone who knew what was going on, also hoped for that. And what was amazing, that when the news reports said that they were alive, we all believed it. It was seemingly a miracle, but we were all ready and willing to believe. All this made the reality that they had died all the more tragic. We had allowed ourselves to acknowledge that the unnatural, the supernatural, the irrational and super-rational could happen. It could, but in the end it didn't.

But the story didn't stop there. There was one survivor, albeit in extremely critical condition. The father of two small children was found alive. His family immediately commented that they felt that the other miners must have shared their oxygen with him. Since he was the youngest, since he was the only one with small children, they believed that the others would have sacrificed their own air, their own only chance at survival, to have lengthened and strengthened his. Perhaps they did. Perhaps not. But the fact that it was a believable possibility was, to me, even more significant.

A few days later, they found a number of notes from the survivors. The latest reporting is that they believe that they may have been alive for at least 10 hours following the blast. The miners did exactly what they had been trained to do. They built a barricade to protect themselves from the deadly gasses, they donned their oxygen tanks, and they waited. They waited and waited and waited. And when they felt that they weren't going to make it, they wrote notes to their families.

These men didn't panic. They didn't resort to violence or desperation. They didn't try to fight their way out or kill themselves to quicken their end. Rather, they focused on the other—on the people whom they knew loved them and would be the ultimate ones suffering, and they left them notes. These notes were to inform their families that they love them and that they shouldn't worry, that they did not suffer and were not in pain. They wanted them to know that they never gave up and did all they could do. During that very same time when the families were believing they were still alive and would be saved, their loved ones were reassuring them that they were OK and would "see them on the other side." While outside the mine there was the belief that perhaps the miners would live, on the inside, even when the miners were pretty sure they wouldn't, their concern was not on themselves but on helping others, through giving them the strength to get through what they knew would be the most difficult time in their lives.

There is a reason this story of the miners made headline news from the very beginning. Unbeknownst to anyone who was reporting, unbeknownst to the readers or the family members or the miners, this was a story that was deserving of extensive coverage. It was not just that there were thirteen men whose lives were in grave danger, but that these would prove to be exceptional men who taught us something in their deaths that perhaps they were never able to in their lives. They taught us that we must do all we can do in even the most dire of circumstances. They taught us the power of prayer, faith and the ability for miracles to happen.

And they taught us to always focus on the other.