Many of us often claim to be having a rough day. Too much stress. Too little respect. Not enough sleep. The list goes on and on. Now, take a minute and think about having the lives of 33 human beings dependant on your job performance over the course of nearly 70 days. What do you think about your rough days now?
I recently had the opportunity to meet and speak with James Stefanic during the 26th Annual Elko Mining Expo. Who? You may be asking yourself. Well, Mr. Stefanic was one of the head engineers in charge of drilling during an extremely important project in Chile from August through October 2010. Stefanic has drilled for everything from oil to gas to minerals in his multiple decades on the job, but during his project in Chile, he was drilling for something for which he had never expected or planned, human beings.
For those unfamiliar with this story, 33 Chilean miners were trapped in August 2010 after their mine collapsed during a shift. Immediately, Chilean government officials started working on a plan to rescue the miners, and Stefanic was one of the first people they called. The effort to first locate the miners and then bring them from 2,300 feet underground to the surface was long and arduous. The rescue took many people and several plans before the famed “Plan B” was executed to perfection over the course of two days in October.
Stefanic was the keynote speaker during the Elko Mining Expo’s opening banquet and gave attendees a detailed breakdown of all the efforts, planning and struggles that went into rescuing the 33 miners. Needless to say, his speech was a revelation, but not because of the end result. Yes, the fact that all 33 men were rescued in good health is amazing; however, it was Stefanic himself who was so impressive.
Here was a man who helped lead an operation over two months that saved lives, yet he stood before the group in Elko as down-to-Earth and soft-spoken as any person I’ve ever met. He simply claimed to be lucky to have had a chance to help. After his speech, I had the opportunity to have a drink at a local bar with Stefanic and learned even more about him. During his time as a drilling engineer, he has lived all over the world, met two presidents (including President Obama after the Chilean rescue), escaped a civil war while on the job, raised a family, maintained a loving marriage and served as the savior of 33 human beings.
Next time you’re having a rough day, think about Mr. Stefanic and what he had to endure for 69 days in 2010. I thought I had met some interesting people in my life, but I had to visit the small town of Elko, NV to meet someone who blew them all away.