Four years ago today, a dozen young soccer players (ages 11-16) and their assistant coach (age 25) headed to the Tham Luang caves in northern Thailand after practice. While they were exploring, heavy and persistent rains rolled in, flooding the tunnels and trapping the members of the Wild Boars soccer team.

That evening as their parents began to worry, one teammate who had not joined the others knew where to look. Sure enough, at the entrance to the cave they found the boys’ scattered bicycles. It wasn’t hard to surmise what had happened.

It was, however, hard to figure out what to do about it. No one knew if the boys were still alive; it was just as likely they had drowned immediately in the initial surge of water. Locals knew the caves filled each rainy season, starting in July and lasting until November. The first flood that year happened to come a week early.

But these were children, innocent children, and authorities were determined to find them one way or another. And so the search for the Wild Boars began.

First, teams of divers began scouring the caves, starting with Thai Navy SEALS then quickly including international specialists. A full nine days after the group went missing, the team was found huddled and hungry on some high ground 2.5 miles into the cave.

Rescue efforts kicked into high gear. Teams worked around the clock to pump water from the caves. Oxygen tanks, food and supplies were delivered to the boys — an effort that took expert divers six hours one way. Attempts were made to dig a new entrance to get the boys out and to drill holes to pipe oxygen in, in case the boys had to remain underground until the end of the monsoon season in November.

Many sacrifices were made to save the Wild Boars. One former Thai Navy SEAL lost consciousness underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen canisters and could not be revived. Another SEAL acquired a blood infection that plagued him until he died from it more than a year later.

Beyond that, acres of farmland were destroyed by the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that were pumped out of the cave. An estimated 10,000 individuals volunteered their time, resources, and energy, many putting themselves in physical peril, all for the sake of rescuing 12 boys and one assistant coach.

Eventually, as a new storm rolled in and the boys’ oxygen levels fell dangerously low, authorities initiated a Hail Mary rescue attempt. With nothing more than a crash course from an anesthesiologist, divers medicated each boy with ketamine (readministering every 45 minutes along the way) and pulled the sedated boys one at a time through the intricate underwater tunnel system. It was an impossible scenario that would take three days and had little chance of success. Yet somehow, miraculously, 17 days after the crisis began it had the happiest possible of endings when all 13 of the Wild Boars were safely removed from the submerged cave.

The world, including the United States of America, was captivated by the tragic plight of the young Thai soccer team. Regarding our own national tragedy, however, with our own children in mortal danger, we seem uninterested and jaded.

It’s not that we don’t love our children. We’re just a nation of sprinters. When it comes to quick bursts of heroic efforts, we’re all in. The sprint is exciting, exhilarating. More importantly, the sprint is over before our attention span is spent, before we get bored and move onto the next thing.

When it comes to pesky, persistent issues that take more time and require long-term sacrifices? Marathon endeavors like tackling the oversaturation of guns in our country or protecting the environment? Hard pass.

But these are the perilous circumstances that endanger our children every day.

Our school children practice active shooter scenarios as frequently as fire drills, and they live in a world plagued with wildfires, record heat and catastrophic storms.

Saving our children — even a small number of our children who are in crisis — requires effort and it requires sacrifice. It requires us doing things we haven’t done before, or at least things differently than we’ve done before.

And it requires a lot of us, from 10,000 to literally billions of us, to put in the effort.

Even with so many of us giving our all, we may not save everyone. But we will save absolutely no one if we don’t do something.

Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.

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