05/09/2011 12:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Moment With One of the Chilean Miners

I love moments that take my breath away, and lucky for me, one of those moments happened this week at an event in Los Angeles. It's no secret that I often attend events here in the city that honor many extraordinary men and women. I have met presidents, tons of celebrities, and other fascinating people. This time it was different.

While attending the Simon Wiesenthal Center's National Tribute Dinner, which honored actor Tom Cruise, I was introduced to a man named Luis Alberto Urzua Iribarren. You may not know the name, but you surely know his heroic story. Urzua was one of 33 Chilean miners trapped inside a cave below the surface of the earth for 69 days back in the summer of 2010. When the mine ceiling collapsed, the miners were believed dead, but after 17 days a note that was brought up through a drilled hole notified rescuers that all of the miners were alive.

During the first 17 days, Urzua, the 54-year-old shift supervisor rationed food, giving one spoonful of tuna to each of the miners every 48 hours. Once the rescue effort began, Urzua was also the man who volunteered to stay behind until all his men were safe. The father of four would wait and watch as each of the men were pulled to higher ground. Imagine what each of these men must have gone through physically and mentally. Imagine how grateful they must be every single day to be alive.

I was only able to spend a few minutes with Urzua, who doesn't speak English well, but because I have been studying Spanish, I was able to get a few nods and a smile from him. It was such a moment for me! I could tell this man, while tenacious, also has a kind and happy soul. Even though we couldn't communicate verbally very well, I could feel his good energy just being next to him.

With Luis just after he made his speech

In October of 2010, I reported the rescue on television as it happened live. While in the newsroom, my colleagues and I watched with bated breath, as did millions around the world. One by one the men were pulled to safety. One by one, we sighed a bit of relief for them. I still consider those historic moments, and our coverage as one of my most memorable as a journalist.

So as many extraordinary people were being honored that night, including Tom Cruise, I found myself enthralled with Urzua's message of strength and calmness. When he was introduced on stage, I couldn't resist, and was the first out of my seat to stand. What an honor! During Urzua's speech, he praised his fellow miners, and pointed to God as the 34th miner. Amazing!

I am grateful that I was able to meet Urzua, and will always use the experience to remind myself that no matter our hardships and struggles, we always deal better with calmness, strength, and knowledge that we will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Watch the final rescue here.

Order of miners rescued:

1. Florencio Ávalos, 31,
2. Mario Sepúlveda, 39,
3. Juan Illanes, 52,
4. Carlos Mamani, 23,
5. Jimmy Sánchez, 19,
6. Osmán Araya, 30,
7. José Ojeda, 46,
8. Claudio Yáñez, 34,
9. Mario Gómez, 63,
10. Álex Vega, 31,
11. Jorge Galleguillos, 56,
12. Edison Peña, 34,
13. Carlos Barrios, 27,
14. Víctor Zamora, 33,
15. Víctor Segovia, 48,
16. Daniel Herrera, 37,
17. Omar Reygada, 56,
18. Esteban Rojas, 44,
19. Pablo Rojas, 45,
20. Darío Segovia, 48,
21. Yonni Barrios, 50,
22. Samuel Ávalos, 43,
23. Carlos Bugueño, 27,
24. José Henríquez, 54,
25. Renán Ávalos, 29,
26. Claudio Acuña, 44,
27. Franklin Lobos, 53,
28. Richard Villarroel, 23,
29. Juan Aguilar, 46,
30. Raúl Bustos, 40,
31. Pedro Cortez, 24,
32. Ariel Ticona, 29,
33. Luis Urzúa Iribarren, 54.