Saturday, July 28, 2012

No, Seriously, What Happened?

Everyone loves a good survival story.  I remember enjoying immensely the book Alive about the team of rugby players who were stranded in the Andes in a plane crash.  However, as amazing as that story was, and as inspiring as the events were, they don't hold a candle to Juliane Koepcke.

Simply put, 17 year old Juliane Koepcke was in a plane that came apart in a thunderstorm- at 10,000 feet.  That is approximately 2 miles high.  Over the amazon jungle.  That she survived the fall is a certified platinum grade A miracle, but it was her ability to survive after the crash, with significant injuries deep in the jungle and have the presence of mind to logically work out how to make her way to civilization that is simply staggering.

Ms. Koepcke as an adult reflects upon her childhood and the strength she was given by her parents that enabled her to survive such a traumatic event.  In point of fact as a parent I kept thinking about how much more valuable this story was for encouraging good parenting philosophies than the surfeit of rather banal and shallow 'how to' books that seem to be everywhere these days.  Her parents encouraged independence, knowledge, curiosity, but did not seem to be the driven 'tiger parents' of today who value results over compassion and conscience.

Continuing with the truth is stranger than fiction theme there was a man scheduled to take that flight as well on that Christmas Eve in 1971.  An itinerary mix-up caused him to miss it.  Werner Herzog was his name and many years later he produced and directed the documentary Wings of Hope about Koepcke's experience.

You just can't make this stuff up.  This is a book worth reading on a number of levels.  The writing isn't particularly impressive but the content and the willingness of Koepcke to be vulnerable on paper make up for any minor literary deficiencies.  Basically, this is just an unbelievable story.

Jaw: meet floor.

When I fell from the sky : the true story of one woman's miraculous survival: Describes an 11-day ordeal faced by the 17-year old sole survivor of an airplane crash in the Peruvian jungle in 1971

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