(CNN) -- Bundled up and gathered in front of giant screens, the families of the trapped miners and Chileans who live nearby watched as a cable attached to winch pulled and pulled from a hole in the Earth.
It was late Tuesday when the top of the Phoenix rescue capsule breached the surface and brought the first trapped miner to the surface.
The large crowds in the town of Copiapo, and at a tent city at the mine site known as Camp Hope, roared with applause.
They yelled and whistled, honked horns and were overjoyed at what was the beginning of the end of a tragedy seemingly averted.
When the first miner, Florencio Avalos, emerged from the capsule and hugged his weeping son, there were more tears and hugs all around.
The joy of the moment was reflected in the people at Camp Hope.
Patriotism also swelled as those gathered at the tent city broke into a spontaneous rendition of Chile's national anthem.
Watchers also were surprised and elated to find that the rescuers had rigged a camera in the mine, providing a live feed from inside. People weren't expecting to be able to see the miners getting ready and climbing into the rescue capsule before their ascent.
The celebrations continued, as by Wednesday afternoon, more than half of the miners had been freed.