By Alastair Jamieson, Reuters
The 12 Thai boys who were rescued from a flooded cave made their first public appearance Wednesday after being discharged from the hospital.
The young soccer players bounced a ball as they appeared in front of reporters in their Wild Boars team shirts. The players were individually applauded as they stood, bowed, and introduced themselves to reporters.
One boy recounted the moment he realized a rescuer had arrived.
“It happened in the evening,” one of the team members said at the news conference. “We heard people speaking. We were not sure if it was a hallucination then we went quieter and realized it was real.”
He said he was “startled” by the rescuer when he emerged from the water. “It was a miracle,” he added. “It was the first glimpse of hope.”
The boy said the group was so hungry that he could “only think about food.”
He added: “We did not know whether we would survive.”
The boys and their 25-year-old coach were safely brought out of the Tham Luang mountain cave complex near the border with Myanmar last week after a perilous rescue operation that drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists to the scene.
The boys have been in the hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai since they were rescued but have been pronounced generally healthy by doctors, aside from some minor infections.
“They are strong physically as well as mentally,” a spokesman told reporters. “Everybody has shown determination to face life in the future.”
The boys, who are aged 11 to 16, and their coach had planned to explore the cavern for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
Two British divers found them on July 2 squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several miles inside the complex. Rescuers then had to work out how to get them out through the tunnels, some of which were full of fast-flowing floodwaters.
Their dramatic story is already set for a retelling by Hollywood, with two production companies looking to put together movies about the boys and their rescue
.Jon M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” said he was working to develop a film about the rescue in order to prevent a Hollywood “whitewash” of the story.
Authorities said the team members took part in “confidence-building exercises” prior to their release from the hospital.
“They will definitely be able to conduct their normal life,” one health official told journalists. “The doctors and nurses are under more stress than the team.”
Passakorn Bunyalak, deputy governor of the province of Chiang Rai, said the boys would be sent home after the news conference and he was requesting their parents and journalists to hold off interviews for about 30 days.
“At this early stage, we are trying to get media not to bother the boys,” he told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that they were protected by Thailand’s Child Protection Act. The law protects those under 18 from media coverage that would cause emotional injury.
From NBC through msn.com