The families of the youth soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand are reading handwritten words of hope, humor and fear as rescue crews from around the world race against the clock to save them.
The 12 boys, ranging from ages 11 to 16, and their coach, Ekaphol “Ake” Chantawong, 25, sent letters to loved ones through the hands of rescue divers Saturday morning. Their messages, scribbled on notebook pages, offer reassuring and funny words to frightened parents and friends above ground — while also hinting at their deeper concerns.
One message makes a plea to their teachers — “don't give us lots of homework!” — while another teenager promised to help his parents more.
The youngest, identified as 11-year-old Tun, wrote a special request to his parents for his favorite meal: “Mom and dad, don't worry about me. … I'm fine. ... Get ready to bring me fried chicken. I love you."
Coach Chantawong's note shared his sorrow and guilt with anxious families: “All parents, all of the kids are fine. … I promise I will take care of the kids at best. Thank you for your kind support and I would like to say I’m really sorry to you all.”
After two weeks underground, the boys’ poignant letters fill their community with love, but bring heavy hearts to those who fear the worst.
With falling oxygen levels underground and monsoon rains in the forecast, the international rescue team is working tirelessly to simultaneously drain millions of gallons of floodwater from the cave and supply oxygen to the group.
A rescue diver’s death Friday morning, coupled with rainy weather conditions, further heightened the urgency and tension around the mission. The former Thai Navy SEAL, Sanam Kunan, who came out of retirement to join the rescue team, is so far the only casualty in the effort since the search began on June 23, the day the team got lost when exploring after soccer practice.
Despite 14 days in relative darkness, the boys remain positive, talking more about the food they can't wait to eat and less about the mission to get out alive.
A final scribbled note from one boy read: "I'm doing fine, but the air is a little cold but don't worry. Although, don't forget to set up my birthday party.”
The large rescue camp of hundreds is fighting to bring him out.