Author Christina Soontornvat Discusses the Thai Cave Rescue

Award-winning author Christina Soontornvat, whose works range from fantasy to narrative nonfiction, held three talks with students yesterday as part of our Virtual Book Fair. With Grades 2 and 3, she discussed the writing process and how she develops her ideas.  With Grades 4-8, Christina captivated the students while discussing her latest book,  All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team.

I sat in on her session with the Middle School students and noticed  many themes that were especially timely for today. The rescue of the 13 children trapped in the Tham Laung cave network made international headlines two years ago, and our students were on varying levels of familiarity with the story. Ms. Soontornvat detailed the harrowing experience the boys underwent for 17 days while waiting to be rescued, sharing photos and experiences from her research for the book. Our students brainstormed their own rescue ideas, and Ms. Soontornvat explained why the officials chose to have divers take them out one by one. 

She also touched on lesser-known aspects of the rescue, such as Coach Canthawong’s Buddhist faith and how he led the boys in meditation to help them remain calm during such a frightening time. Many attribute the boys’ survival in part due to the meditation, which not only helped preserve their mental health, but also enabled them to use less of the cave’s limited supply of oxygen. The boys endured near total darkness for almost 10 days, using their flashlights only when someone needed to go in search of water to drink. 

Another aspect shared was that there’s a phenomenon that happens to the human brain when someone is facing such extreme conditions — they often begin to imagine things. Although the cave was too far underground for the boys to hear what was happening at the surface, they believed they heard the sound of helicopters and chickens. This was enough to give them hope–they believed that people were searching for them and that they would, in fact, be found. 

As I listened to Ms. Soontornvat, words like perseverance, teamwork, ingenuity, and hope continued to come to mind– all traits that have helped and will continue to help us endure and overcome our current circumstances.

Danny Vogelman

Head of School