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As they emerged: How each man spent his first moments above ground

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Freed after 69 days underground
  • NEW: All 33 miners have been rescued
  • NEW: Foreman Luis Urzua arrived at the surface shortly before 10 p.m. (9 p.m. ET)
  • The miners emerged to cheers and applause

Copiapo, Chile (CNN) -- Some gave a thumbs-up, waved Chilean flags, and hugged their loved ones. One dropped to his knees and prayed, while another asked about his dog. One led the crowd in a cheer for Chile. And then they were all wheeled away on stretchers.

This is how the Chilean miners -- emerging from the dark San Jose mine after more than two months -- savored their first moments above ground.

The first miner to reach the surface, Florencio Avalos, beamed and hugged everyone around him as he walked on the Earth's surface for the first time in 69 days. He took a few moments to embrace his weeping family before he was taken away for a medical evaluation amid cheers.

As the second miner, Mario Sepulveda, exited the rescue hole, he reached into a large yellow bag and handed out what appeared to be rocks to officials and rescue workers. Sepulveda cracked jokes in his first moments above ground and led the crowd in a cheer for Chile. As the 40-year-old was hauled away on a stretcher for his medical evaluation, he asked his wife, "How's the dog?"

Video: Best out-of-the-mine moments
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Video: Lucky number 13 rescued from mine
Video: Rescued miner very thankful

Juan Illanes, an electrical mechanic retired from the Chilean military, beamed from behind his dark sunglasses when he became the third miner to be rescued. Like the other men, Illanes wore dark goggles to protect his eyes against from the new light, after having been in the gloom for about two months. His letters to his wife while he was trapped displayed humor and optimism.

A collection of small, hand-held Bolivian flags amid a sea of Chilean flags greeted Carlos Mamani, the lone Bolivian miner and the fourth to reach the earth's surface. Mamani knelt on the ground and pointed to an image resembling the Chilean flag on his T-shirt, acknowledging the cheering crowd. The rookie miner and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera embraced before Mamani was taken away for his medical exams.

Pinera remained by the side of family members all day, greeting the miners after their exchanges with their families.

The youngest miner, 18-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, was the fifth miner extracted. Sanchez, who worked as an environmental assistant, does not like confined spaces and has said he misses his mother's cooking. He is the father of an infant girl.

Osman Araya fell into the arms of his wife and kissed her repeatedly as he emerged from the mine. The sixth miner to be rescued thrust his fists into the air with thumbs up as he was wheeled away on a stretcher.

Seconds after stepping out of the rescue capsule, the seventh miner, Jose Ojeda, unfurled a large Chilean flag in front of the crowd. The widower suffers from diabetes and served as secretary for the trapped miners.

Claudio Yanez stepped out of the rescue capsule and extended a thumbs-up to the crowd. Once freed from his harnesses, the eighth rescued miner rushed toward his fiancee, knocking off her hard hat.

Mario Gomez, the oldest of the trapped miners at age 63 and a spiritual leader of the group, worked himself out of the rescue capsule, spread out his arms and gave two thumbs up. Then he displayed the Chilean flag and hugged and kissed his wife.

Clasping the national flag, the miner -- who suffers from a mine-related lung disease and has only two fingers on one hand due to a previous mining accident -- then gently dropped to his knees and spoke silently to God.

Alex Vega, a 31-year-old heavy machine mechanic, arrived at the surface flashing an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and then hugged and kissed his girlfriend.

The 11th miner to emerge was 56-year-old Jorge Galleguillos. He had been on medication for hypertension, but he looked strong and relieved as he got his first glimpse of freedom. He waved, gave a thumbs-up and embraced his brother, and was greeted as well by two presidents, Chile's Sebastian Pinera and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

The 12th miner to be rescued, Edison Pena, was no longer "All Shook Up," as the Elvis Presley song goes. An Elvis fanatic who led the trapped miners in sing-alongs, Pena, 34, looked fit and exuberant. He waved and shook hands and hugged colleagues, loved ones and dignitaries.

Carlos Barrios, a 27-year-old foreman at the mine, emerged to stirring applause. The 13th miner to be rescued looked in good health as he embraced a loved one and was greeted by pats, hugs and handshakes of others. He has a 5-year-old son and is a fanatic soccer fan and regular player.

The 14th miner to be rescued was Victor Zamora, 33. He and his wife are expecting a baby in six months and plan to name her Paz Victoria. And after he came up to the surface, he passionately hugged his wife. After workers placed him a stretcher, Chile's president chatted with him. Zamora is a poet and a fan of reggae legend Bob Marley.

Victor Segovia, the 15th extracted miner, looked a bit weary but relieved just the same as he was greeted by well-wishers and Chile's president. He kept a journal during his ordeal in the hole, and his updates helped keep rescuers up to date on the miners.

Daniel Herrera, 27, edged out of the rescue capsule and hugged his elated mother, who had said she wouldn't leave the site until she could depart with him. Herrera, a truck driver who took on the duties of a paramedic assistant during the ordeal, looked very moved as people greeted him, the 16th miner to be freed.

Omar Reygadas, a 56-year-old foreman, was greeted by hugs and solemnly knelt down. He also unfurled a Chilean soccer team flag while he was on a stretcher.

Esteban Rojas, 44, left the rescue capsule and prayed. He got down on his knees, crossed himself, put his hands together in the pose of prayer, crossed himself again, and then put his hands over his head.

He emotionally embraced his wife of 25 years. During his time in the mine, he asked his wife to renew their marriage vows, this time in a traditional church ceremony.

Pablo Rojas, 45, had worked at the mine for six months. He was one of the trapped miners who handled the supplies coming into the mine. He sank to his knees as he stepped into the sunlight.

The 20th miner to emerge, 48-year-old Dario Segovia, started going down in the mines when he was 8 years old. He waved a Chilean flag and dropped to his knees when he came out of the capsule.

Yonni Barrios, 50, was the 21st miner to step out of the capsule. He embraced his wife as she sobbed on his shoulder.

Samuel Avalos, 43, monitored the gas levels in the mine. He flashed a V sign and a wave as he emerged from the capsule and kissed his wife.

Carlos Bugeuno embraced his mother at the top of his long trip to the surface. Bugueno, 27, was another supply handler during the 69 days underground.

Jose Henriquez, 54, sported a broad smile when rescuers opened the capsule after his ride to the surface. He waved and offered a double-thumbs-up to the rescuers around him and then lifted his wife off the ground in a long embrace.

Renan Avalos' brother, Florencio, was the first miner to be pulled to the surface. Renan, the 25th, smiled broadly, hugging rescuers and waving as family members hugged one another. And then he joined the family without even removing his miner's helmet as the others had. He is 29.

Claudio Acuna's wife, mother and 2-year-old daughter, were on hand to greet him when he emerged from the shaft. Acuna, the youngest of eight brothers, left his helmet on, too, as he rushed to greet them. He unfurled a small Chilean flag as he was carried away on the stretcher, draped in a larger flag. His daughter cried as he was carried away.

Franklin Lobos, 53, and Jorge Galleguillos, the 11th miner rescued, credit their stop to look at a small, white butterfly with saving their lives. They were in a truck deep in the mine when they spotted the butterfly, and when they slowed to look closer, the mine began collapsing in front of them. While his family waved balloons and flags and cheered loudly, Lobos stepped out of the capsule and greeted his wife, who handed him a soccer ball. Lobos, a former player on the Chilean national team, kicked the ball around before being greeted by Pinera.]

Richard Villarroel, 27, didn't tell his mother he worked in a mine, but she was there to meet him as he came out, along with his younger sister who carried a Chilean flag for her big brother. Villarroel waved the flag as his mother ran to wrap her arms around him.

With the sun setting on another day, the 29th miner to return to the surface was Juan Carlos Aguilar, 49, one of three shift supervisors at the San Jose mine. He smiled broadly as the capsule was opened, gave a long hug to his wife and spoke briefly with the president before being carted away wearing a T-shirt bearing a white star and the colors of the Chilean flag.

Raul Bustos was the 30th miner to ride the Phoenix capsule to the surface. The day of the collapse was his first day inside the mine, where he had worked as a foreman and hydraulics engineer for two months -- after he, his wife and two small children escaped from the aftermath of an earthquake in Talcahuano.

The scene was lit by only the bright work lights media lights when Bustos, 40, reached the surface and reunited with his beaming wife. "You have no idea how happy I am," he said during the round of embraces and handshakes from those who waited for his ascent.

Acoustics expert Pedro Cortez, 25, was next up the long shaft. Cortez, who joined the mine with his friend Carlos Bugueno -- the 23rd miner rescued -- heard the voice of one of his relatives shouting down to him before the capsule broke the surface. "Pedro!" the man bellowed. "We're waiting for you!" He picked up his young daughter and held her close as other relatives released balloons bearing the Chilean colors into the night sky.

Acoustics expert Ariel Ticona, 29, said to be shy by his family, arrived at the top chewing gum and quietly embraced his wife and smiled broadly. He held up a disconnected telephone to laughter and applause -- a phone, he said, that made the first connection between the trapped miners and the surface and was made in Chile. Ticona's wife did not bring their month-old baby girl Esperanza ("Hope") into the chilly desert night air, but Ticona witnessed the birth of his third child -- the first he was able to see -- via a video link lowered into the mine.

And shortly before 10 p.m. (9 p.m. ET), shift foreman Luis Urzua -- who refused to come to the surface ahead of even a single one of his men -- stepped out of the Phoenix capsule, the 33rd and last of the trapped miners rescued from their long stay in the darkness. Urzua's was the first voice those on the surface heard through Ticona's telephone -- "We are well and hoping that you will rescue us," he said. And they did.

At the surface, the rescuers chanted and sang awaiting Urzua's arrival. They hugged. President Pinera wiped a tear from his eye. A loud cheer and more singing and chanting erupted when the siren rang, signifying the capsule was 200 meters away. At about 55 meters, they shouted down to Urzua -- "How are you?" "Good," was his reply. And when the capsule came through into the lights, cheering, whistling, the siren and tears greeted Urzua.

The siren continued, vehicle horns blared.

"I have the privilege to inform that all the miners have been rescued, including the leader of this group, and everybody is in perfect physical condition," one of the rescuers said. Urzua waved, hugged his son and then the president.

"You have been a very good boss and leader of this group," Pinera said.

"As I said before, I hope this will never happen again," Urzua said. "Thank you very much to all the rescuers and everybody here. I am proud of being a Chilean. I want to thank everybody."

Pinera and Urzua led everyone in the Chilean national anthem, the "Himno Nacional de Chile."

Part of complete coverage on
How miners reached the surface
The Phoenix raises miners from their underground cell
Who are the miners?
One has led fellow workers in Elvis singalongs, another has been mining for 50 years
Miner 'saw God, devil' during ordeal
"I buried 40 years of my life down there," says Mario Sepulveda. "I was with God, and I was with the devil."
Rescue effort galvanizes Chile
The mine rescue turned into a celebration and expression of Chilean pride
The world watches
Few events have gripped the watching world in recent times as the miners' rescue
Timeline: How the drama unfolded
From cave-in to freedom -- 69 days below ground
360 panorama of rescue site
CNN's interactive gives a 360-degree sweep of the site of the Chile mine rescue