“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us…” The above quote is originally from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, but we often mistakenly attribute it to other famous people. However, the truth in that statement is so strong that people hardly discover it until they find themselves in situations where they have no option but to survive. Despite the probability that you might not have been involved in a tragedy thus far, there’s no indication that the men and women who have survived calamitous situations are any different from you.
Some people here have survived situations that have baffled us for years, because what they have been through might not always have a logical explanation. Other people have survived owing to quick thinking, others pushed their bodies beyond the limits that we all restrict ourselves to, while others survive situations that they also had no idea they would make it out of alive. Regardless of the situation, the following experiences are enough to teach us a few things about how strong, resilient, creative, selfless, and lucky we can be, and perhaps get us thinking about the presence of a higher power working around us.
Here are 10 people who went through ordeals that they were never meant to make it out alive, or so one might think:
10. Robert Evans: Survived a hit-and-run from a motorist and a train accident, both within seven hours
Surviving one accident is a miracle that many people have experienced; however, surviving two accidents within a seven hour period is something no one can ever imagine. In one evening in September 2008, then homeless Robert Evans was riding his bike along the streets of Boulder, Colorado when a motorist hit him with his car and fled the scene. Robert was sent to Boulder Community Hospital for treatment and later released at 3 a.m. the following day. On his way back to the camp where he was spending his nights, Robert decided to use a shortcut through a narrow railroad bridge, where he was knocked off the bridge by an oncoming train and sent back to Boulder Community Hospital again for treatment. Although he survived both accidents without serious injuries, the whole situation is quite fascinating.
9. Roy Sullivan – Was struck by lightning on seven different occasions and survived all of them
Roy Sullivan is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only human being to suffer seven lightning strikes, and live to tell about all of them. Roy Sullivan died in 1983 at the age of 71, and ironically his death had nothing to do with lightning, it was as a result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Roy was a human being like the rest of us working as a Forest Ranger in Virginia, but his ability to attract lightning was rather odd. His first strike was in 1942, and it struck his leg knocking off his big toe. His second strike was in 1969; this one knocked him unconscious and burned his eyebrows. His third strike was in 1970 and it struck his left shoulder. His fourth strike was in 1972 and this one set his hair on fire, he had to pour a bucket of water on his head to put out the flames. His fifth strike was in 1973, and this one also struck his head, ripped through his hat, and set his hair on fire again. His sixth strike was in 1976, and this strike injured his ankle. His last strike was in 1977; this one was so serious that he had to be rushed to hospital suffering from stomach and chest burns.
8. Aron Ralston – Amputated his arm after five days to free himself from a tight spot
In 2003, Ralston went climbing the Blue John canyon in Utah, when a rock dislodged and trapped his right forearm to the canyon wall. He remained stuck there for five days, having tried everything he could to free himself but with no luck. During those difficult 127 hours he was trapped, he not only had to deal with the pain and discomfort of his situation but he had to keep himself hydrated and warm. When it dawned on him that the only way out of that situation was without his forearm, he reached for his blunt multi-tool pocket knife and amputated the forearm. After freeing himself, he had to crawl out of the canyon and carefully rappel down a cliff 65 feet high to safety. His incredible story was made into the film 127 Hours starring James Franco.
7. Harrison Okene – Survived at the bottom of the sea for three days with no oxygen tank
In May 2013, a ship cook named Harrison Okene went to the bathroom when what most people would consider is the worst thing that could happen at sea, actually happened. The ship he was in encountered severe waves off the coast of Nigeria that immediately sank the vessel killing everyone on board except Okene. Mr. Okene survived a dark, wet, and freezing ordeal for three days at the bottom of the sea breathing a dwindling supply of air that was trapped when the boat capsized. When rescuers came to get bodies out of the wreckage, they were surprised to discover Okene alive and well.
6. Peter Skyllberg – Survived in his car for two months after being trapped by snow
How long do you think you could survive trapped in your car? It’s hard to tell because even going through bad traffic in the morning on your way to work always seems like a nightmare, right? Well, Peter Skyllberg, a Swedish man, was trapped in his car for two months, with temperatures reaching -30°C, with no food or water, and yet he survived the ordeal. Apparently this man was snowed over and could not get out of his car from 19 December 2011, until the day he was rescued by two people on snowmobiles on 17 February 2012. During this period he only fed on snow, and slept at the backseat of his car. The best explanation of how he managed to survive was that his vehicle created an “igloo effect” and insulated him from the extremely low temperatures and that his body would hibernate during this time.
5. Matthew Allen – Survived a record-breaking heat wave for nine weeks in the Australian Outback
The then 18-year-old Australian teenager Mathew Allen ran away from home in December 2012 without his phone or a change of clothes, and he did not even tell anyone why he was leaving or where he was going. Mathew at the time was believed to be mentally disturbed, and he must have walked to the harsh Australian outback to test his strength and endurance. Mathew’s family, friends and neighbours had searched for him with no success for nine weeks, until some hikers found him weak, emaciated, disoriented, covered in mosquito bites and leeches, with gangrene starting to eat his feet and lower legs, and unable to stand. What is amazing is that Mathew survived the nine weeks with hardly any meaningful amounts of food and water, with no form of shelter, and through a period where there was a record-breaking heat wave in Australia. It is still a mystery how Mathew survived.
4. British climber walks away from an avalanche that carried him over 700 meters downslope
An unnamed British man survived an ordeal that very few people have experienced and lived to tell the story. While descending Mount Blanc, which is one of the most dangerous mountains on the Alps owing to the frequent avalanches it experiences, three climbers discovered that an avalanche was underway with hardly anywhere to run to. Two of the climbers were able to get to safety, but the third one was not so lucky. Since the mountain claims over 100 lives each year, this unlucky climber was about to become part of the statistic, but thanks to his diehard attitude and quick thinking, he miraculously escaped death. As the snow and ice were carrying him downhill and attempting to bury him, he channeled all his energy to try swimming to the top of the avalanche and remain there up to the time it would stop. When the avalanche petered out 700 meters later, this climber was close to the surface and he just pulled himself out of the snow and walked off without any serious injuries.
3. A four-month-old baby girl survives three days without drowning after the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami hit
The earthquake and Tsunami off the coast of Japan claimed thousands of lives within a very short period, and this disaster proved to be one of the worst that the world has experienced in a very long time. The loss of life and destruction of property was at an unimaginable scale, and the rescue teams on site were losing hope with every single body they found dead. However, three days after the destruction, some rescuers heard cries from a baby under piles of debris, and when they removed the debris they discovered a four-month-old baby alive with no visible injuries. The fact that the baby survived the tsunami and that she did not drown is still a mystery. The baby was reunited with her family later on, and this proved to be one of the best moments in the aftermath of the disaster.
2. Reshma Begum – Survived 17 days under the rubble of a collapsed garment factory
24 April 2013 was a fateful day for employees in a garment factory in Bangladesh since over a thousand of them lost their lives in the worst accident to occur in any industry in recent times. The building they were working in collapsed a short while after the over 3,000 workers who reported in that morning. However, the most amazing thing about this story is that a woman named Reshma Begum survived under the rubble for 17 days, at a point where rescuers were fast losing hope of finding any more survivors. The rescuers heard a banging sound within the rubble and figured that there had to be someone alive making that noise. The then 19-year-old Reshma Begum was working on the third floor of the building when it collapsed.
1. Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher – Saved his fellow soldiers by throwing himself on a live grenade
When the enemy throws a grenade at you, your chances of survival are slim to none. However, Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher’s story is very different, one of bravery and survival against all odds. When the then 24-year-old British soldier on a mission to Afghanistan in 2008 tripped on a wire and accidentally triggered a grenade, he had to think fast in order to save the lives of his comrades as well as his own. In a feat of sheer bravery and selflessness, Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher shouted “grenade” and then dove on it. Thanks to his quick thinking he landed on the grenade with his bag between his body and the explosive, with the bag absorbing most of the impact. As opposed to being blown to pieces, Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher was instead thrown into the air by the force, landed safely and only suffered a nose bleed and a terrible headache. His act of bravery not only saved his life and his comrade’s lives, but it earned him the George Cross award, the highest award for gallantry.