The first of 33 Chilean miners has ascended to freedom from the underground chamber where the men have been entombed for 10 long weeks.
A cheer went up around 11:12 p.m. ET as Florencio Avalos emerged from a rescue capsule wearing a helmet and sunglasses to protect his eyes from the nighttime lights at the San Jose Mine in Chile.
Avalos proceeded to hug Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and other onlookers after emerging, according to TV images. He then was shown being wheeled away on a stretcher to a triage area where the rescued miners were to be assessed.
The rescues began after technicians performed a number of tests on the rescue capsule. Next, they lowered Manuel Rodriguez, a mining rescue expert with Chile's state copper company Codelco, down into the mine chamber, where he could be seen on a television hookup talking to the trapped men.
Rescuers soon started pulling up Avalos, a trip that took 15 minutes and 39 seconds, according to the Chilean TV channel Chilevision.
Authorities planned to pull one miner to freedom each hour, into the arms of waiting loved ones.
"We made a promise to never surrender, and we kept it," Pinera said at about 4:45 p.m. ET, or 5:45 p.m. local time, after arriving at the San Jose mine. "In only two hours more, the time will come that we have worked so hard for."
Chilean Minister of Mines Laurence Golborne initially said officials "hope to have at least one of our miners on the surface" before midnight. Later, however, officials said the rescues likely would be delayed a couple hours amid the logistical preparations.
"We are going all around the clock for 48 hours, the rescue process," Golborne said.
In the end, the first rescue did happen shortly after midnight Wednesday local time.
For the first two to three hours of the operation, officials ran tests of the steel Fenix rescue capsule, including runs up and down the rescue shaft with the capsule empty or containing rescue workers or equipment.
As the initial tests proceeded, rescue workers chanted a modified cheer popularized during Chile's World Cup soccer games: "Vamos, vamos chilenos, porque esta noche tenemos que ganar," the chant traditionally goes, which translates to, "Come on, come on Chileans, tonight we have to win."
In this case, the end of the chant was being modified to say, "Y los tenemos que sacar," which means, "And we've got to get them out."
They chanted other patriotic Chilean cheers over the course of the evening.
Pinera told Avalos' mother that her son, trapped for 69 days, would be the first to be brought to the surface by the pulley system.
It's expected that the last man up will be Luis Urzua, the man who was shift foreman when the collapse occurred and has shown inspiring leadership throughout the ordeal.
"We began to talk to them about the proper order of rescue and they were fighting against us yesterday because every one of them wanted to be at the end of the line, not at the beginning," Chilean Minister of Health Jaime Manalich said Sunday.
Roads surrounding the mine were slated to be shut down at 7 p.m. ET to make room for an ambulance in case of emergency.