By Wednesday afternoon, rescuers had winched to the surface more than half of the 33 miners trapped in a northern Chile gold and copper mine, and the world marveled at a "mission incredible." After 69 harrowing days, the miners ascended to freedom one by one, hoisted through a half-mile of rock in a rescue mission that began in the numbing chill of a desert night and continued under the searing sun of a cloudless day. As they came out of the earth in a red, white and blue capsule, the miners signaled a thumbs-up. Or waved Chilean flags. One even led the crowd in a chant for Chile. Some dropped to their knees and prayed. Mostly, though, they embraced the families they feared they would never see again. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called the mission "magical." U.S. President Barack Obama called it a "tremendously inspirational story." Florencio Avalos was the first to step out from the "Fenix" capsule, named for the mythical bird that rose from ashes. He beamed as his feet touched the surface of the Earth that had smothered him. He cradled his son and wife before Pinera bear-hugged him.The entire night passed before it was Mario Gomez's turn. He is 63 but has been mining since the tender age of 12. He contracted lung disease during his career and lost three fingers in a previous mining accident. He had planned to retire but went back down in the mine August 5 to test drive a new truck. His wife, Lillian Ramirez, stood by nervously as he emerged before her in a cage no wider than the span of his shoulders. Gomez, a man who used to tell his wife to quit bugging him to say daily prayers, dropped to his knees to praise God. At that moment, she knew how lucky she was to have him returned to her. To say there were 33 trapped in the mine is wrong, Ramirez said. There were 33 men -- and God.