CHIANG RAI, Thailand (CBSNewYork) — The 12 young soccer players who were rescued from a cave in Thailand are speaking out about their harrowing ordeal.
Cheers and applause greeted the boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, as they entered a conference hall Wednesday for a news conference after being released from the hospital.
Inside, they showed off their soccer skills and hugged friends before sitting down to answer questions.
The teammates went into the cave on June 23 after soccer practice but became trapped when rain filled the cave with water. They were found by divers about 10 days later on an area of dry ground inside the cave.
Divers were able to safely pull all 12 boys and their coach from the cave during a three-day rescue operation, with the last members of the team being brought to the surface on July 10.
One of the boys recalled the moment they saw the first rescue divers and said “his heart was filled with hope.”
“It was a miracle. A miracle,” he said. “I was shocked.”
The boys described what it was like for them in the cave. They said they weren’t initially scared because they thought the water would go back down overnight.
They talked about how they were so hungry they would dream of food.
“I tried not to think about fried rice,” one player said.
Doctors say each child gained about six pounds since the rescue was completed eight days ago.
An interesting moment came when virtually every kid on stage said, “I want to apologize to my parents because I didn’t tell them I was going into the cave. I only told them I was going to soccer practice.”
There was also a somber moment when the children brought out a drawing of the Thai Navy SEAL who died trying to rescue them. They said they felt sad and guilty and they hope the drawing, which they all signed, will go to the diver’s family.
Many of the boys say when they grow up they want to be both a professional soccer player and a Thai Navy SEAL.
Journalists had to submit questions that were vetted before being handed over to the moderator. Thai officials said that was to protect the children from any questions that might cause psychological harm but it also gave officials the ability to limit negative questions.