They gathered in churches, community centres and living rooms across Canada to watch the dramatic rescue of their brethren trapped for more than two months in a collapsed Chilean mine.
The miracle story that unfolded Tuesday night is one Chilean-Canadians say their homeland was longing for.
"It's been a pretty emotional year for Chile ... with the earthquake, and with this now," said Pablo Vivanco of Toronto.
"Everyone is quite relieved and quite happy that there's finally a good story in all of this."
Vigils for the miners, who were trapped when 700,000 tonnes of rock collapsed Aug. 5. sealing the men into the lower reaches of the mine, in San Jose, turned into jubilation Tuesday night when the first miner emerged from a missile-like escape capsule named Phoenix for the mythical bird that rises from ashes.
"I just watched them pull out Florencio," an emotional Mr. Vivanco said in an interview momenta after Florencio Avalos was pulled to freedom and into the arms of his sobbing seven-year-old son.
Earlier, Jose Astorgasay of Winnipeg was sitting with his family in the living room watching anxiously as the first rescuer was lowered into the shaft.
"I'm very nervous, very nervous. From now on everything can happen," he said.
Since Aug. 22, when a narrow bore hole broke through to their refuge and the miners stunned the world with a note, scrawled in red ink, disclosing their survival, the story has captivated the world.
It's the second time a disaster in Chile makes international headlines this year.
About 500 people died in Feb. 27, when a powerful quake toppled buildings, cracked roads and sent a tsunami roaring ashore, causing more than 400 confirmed deaths and leaving many more people missing.
"It is heartening to see people coming together and support and show that sort of human solidarity to these trapped workers," said Mr. Vivanco, who early Wednesday decided to join members of his community who had gathered at San Lorenzo church in Toronto to watch until the last miner was rescued.
"Even in North America, where miners are trapped and killed in this sort of collapses (there are) so few opportunities where the workers in those mines actually get out alive ... so to be able to see that and witness it is, I think, something that is actually a relief to people beyond just the Chilean community."
More than 1,000 journalists from around the globe were at the scene and television networks in Canada broadcast the rescue live for several hours.
But Chilean-Canadians preferred to watch it on Chile's state TV channel in their native language.
"I think everybody's just glued to their TVs, because the majority of Chileans have satellite TV. In Chile, nothing else is on TV except the rescue of the miners," said Sandra Azocar of Edmonton's Chilean-Canadian Cultural Association.
"It's such an emotional thing. You're far away but you're always an extension of your countrymen, so it is quite emotional to see what's happened. It makes you shiver."
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