5 People Who Survived Disasters and Lived to Tell the Tale
There are very few people in the world who have been witnesses to catastrophes that have rocked the world, survived them, and then lived to tell the tale. These people have seen the worst of world history, and either coincidentally or by the hand of God, survived the ordeal to tell the world about their experiences. Here are 10 such amazing people from history who survived catastrophic disasters.
1. The Man who Cheated Death 7 Times
Surviving a life-threatening situation is not something common in the world today. But some people are so lucky that they survive not just once but several times. One such rare personality is Frane Selak of Croatia. His first truck with death came in 1962 when a train in which he was traveling went off track and fell into a river. He survived as someone pulled him out of the river, but the other 17 passengers who fell weren’t so lucky. The next year he went on his first plane ride and got thrown out of the plane because of a malfunctioning door. He fell on a haystack and survived again.
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Three years later he was on a bus that fell into a river. Again he survived after swimming to the banks of the river with only a few bruises. Then comes 1970 and Selak is driving his car when his fuel tank exploded. He realized his fuel tank was leaking and was able to escape and run from the car seconds before the car burst into flames. 25 years later, Selak got hit by a bus but survived again with just a few minor injuries. The last incident was when his car collided with a United Nations truck on a mountain road. His car was thrown off to the side and the door swung open throwing Selak out. Again Selak landed on a tree and held on to it as he saw his car fall down a 90-feet gorge. His luck did not end here as he won a $1,110,000 lottery at the age of 73 after being married for the fifth time. Lady Luck surely had fallen in love with Selak as death just could not take him away. He still lives hale and hearty in Zagreb, Croatia.
2. The Man who Inspired 127 Hours
One of Danny Boyle's and James Franco’s most amazing movies, 127 Hours was inspired by a man who survived an unthinkable ordeal and lived to see his story become a blockbuster film. Aron Ralston was an engineer and outdoorsman who often ventured out in the wilderness for a new adventure. It was this knack for traveling the terrain that brought him to the Blue John Canyon in Utah in 2003. While hiking around the rocks of the canyon, a boulder above Aron broke off, tumbled down, hit his left hand, and ended up crashing his right hand against the canyon wall. No one knew that Aron had ventured out into the canyons and so there was no way someone was coming to help.
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Stuck between the canyon walls he tried his best to free himself for days, surviving on the food and water he carried with him. But soon rations started depleting and he believed that this was the end. He tried freeing his arm but to no avail as the boulder was humongous. He finally decided that he had to amputate the arm if he had any chance of survival in this wilderness. He began making a cut on his hand with the tools he had but realized that he had to also cut through the bone if he wanted to get free. He had no tools that could cut through the bone. Disappointed, on the fifth day, Aron scribbled his name, date of birth, and the estimated time of death on the sandstone near him. When he woke up on the morning of the 6th, he saw that his arm had begun decomposing. He thought this is the only way and so he applied torque against his arm to break it off. He succeeded and then walked eight miles before he was rescued. The authorities went back to the site, used heavy hydraulic equipment to remove his broken arm, and then cremated the arm, giving the ashes to Aron. Aron revisited the site on his 28th birthday and scattered the ashes saying that this is where they belong.
3. The Olympic Gold Medalist Who Survived the Sinking Titanic
Richard Noris Williams is a name etched in the United States Tennis history books as one of its earliest champions of tennis winning not just the national championships twice but also securing a medal in Wimbledon’s men’s doubles and then snatching the gold at the 1924 Olympics. But there is something peculiar about Williams that makes him different from the other maestros of tennis. Richard Williams was one of the passengers of the famous Titanic and was on it when the ship sank to the bottom of the ocean. An accomplished tennis player in his teens he was on the ship with his father before the ship capsized. When both of them fell into the freezing waters of the Atlantic his father was crushed by the forward funnel of the ship but Richard survived by a whisker. He held on to a boat for a long time before he was finally rescued and transferred to a lifeboat.
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When he came aboard the Carpathia with the other survivors, he had been in the freezing waters for too long. His legs were rendered incapable of moving or even ever working in the future. The doctors recommended they amputate the legs to save him from gangrene. He refused as he could not see his dream of becoming a tennis champion fade away. He reached back home, began exercising and soon he regained full function of his legs. He kept playing professional tennis and also studied at Harvard. After surviving one of the biggest disasters in history, Richard went on to become an Olympic champion for his country. He also served in the US Army earning the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre for his services.
4. The Woman Who Fell from the Sky
Vesna Vulovic is the holder of a world record that no one would ever want to be associated with. Falling out of the sky has always been a phrase for people but Vesna is one such individual who has lived it. A Serbian flight attendant, Vesna was serving on the JAT Flight 367 from Stockholm to Belgrade on the 26th of January, 1972. The flight was scheduled to stop in Copenhagen and then in Zagreb. Vesna was excited to visit the country of Denmark for the first time in her life. When the flight landed in Copenhagen at 2:30 PM, Vesna saw an annoyed man, and even the station manager and the crew at the Copenhagen airport saw the man annoyed. They believed he had planted a bomb in the plan in his check-in luggage. But no action was taken.
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The plane took off again at 3:15 and at 4:01 the bomb went off. The plane was torn into two parts mid-air. Vesna along with the other 28 passengers fell from 33,000 feet, cruising down to their ends. A few minutes later Vesna landed on hard ground and survived while the others did not. A villager found her in the wreckage and immediately rushed her to the hospital. She stayed in a coma for a long time and suffered from broken ribs, broken vertebrae, a fractured pelvis, and two broken legs. She recovered soon but the damage to her spine left her paralyzed waist-under. Vesna was celebrated as a national hero in Yugoslavia and was awarded the record of surviving the highest fall without a parachute by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1985.
5. The Man Who Survived Deserts and Mountains to Live
Slawomir Rawicz was a gentleman enlisted in the Polish army as a lieutenant before the Second World War. When the Germans invaded Poland, Rawicz was arrested and imprisoned on November 19, 1939. He was taken to Minsk and then to Kharkov for interrogation. He was finally imprisoned in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow as a POW. He was continuously tortured in the prison so that he could reveal important information about the Allied Powers but when the Russians realized he wasn’t going to talk, they sent him to do hard labor in a prison camp in Siberia. Two years later he escaped the camp with six other prisoners.
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The escapees included Rawicz, three Polish soldiers, a Lithuanian architect, a Latvian landowner, a US Metro engineer, and a 17-year old Polish girl named Kristina. They decided to escape Siberia and enter India where the British could help them get back home. The journey to India was not an easy one as it had to be completed by crossing two of the harshest terrains in the world, the Gobi desert, and the ice-laden Himalayas. Two of his teammates fell in the Gobi desert whereas two left for heavenly abode in the Himalayas. After 11 months of trekking, the surviving four reached India in March 1942. They came across a Gurkha patrols station that then took them to the nearest hospital in Calcutta. Some say that Rawicz's story is a hoax but a British intelligence office who interrogated the other three people who survived had claimed that they had escaped Siberia with Rawicz.