Luck? Chance? Miracles? Willpower? The Mysterious Common Thread in Extreme Survival Stories

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The true story of a 17-year-old girl who survived a high-altitude airplane accident over the rain forest is perhaps the quintessential script of the perfect marriage between survival, preparation, and the role of chance in the outcome of SHTF.

Juliane Koepcke is one of the (very) few people in history to ever come out alive from a high-altitude airliner crash. The daughter of two German biology researchers, she was the sole survivor of LANSA Flight 508.

Juliane’s incredible story of the jungle, survival, and angels

On Christmas Eve, 1971, Juliane boarded the Lockheed 188 Electra OB-R-941 with her mother and other 83 passengers and crew to make the one-hour trip from the capital of Peru, Lima, to Pucallpa, a small town deep in the Amazon forest. About midway through, the turboprop entered a storm and got hit by lightning. It immediately plunged, shattering into pieces on the descent. As the aircraft’s cabin burst, Juliane got ejected, strapped to her seat, into the void, and on a 10,000 ft. drop at full speed towards the ground.

She woke up in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest with a broken collarbone, a twisted ankle, both eyes swollen shut, multiple bruises, and deep cuts all over her small, frail body. It’s so incredible to the point of being almost unbelievable.

For ten (you read that right – ten) days, she wandered alone, amidst the dense, inhospitable jungle, without her glasses and wearing only a dress and one sandal. She finally reached a small village on the riverbanks, almost unconscious yet still walking by her own feet. Here is where she was rescued.

She had just escaped a 2-mile free fall and managed to survive darkness, starvation, poisonous insects and deadly animals, heat and cold, rain and sun, for days – all the while in a state of weakness and severe pain. When the villagers saw Juliane, they thought the limping little blonde girl was some jungle deity coming out of the woods, and she thought those men were angels.

You can read her story here.

There are many other incredible survival stories

Perhaps one of the most famous is that of another airplane accident that happened in South America less than a year after Juliane’s (October 1972). A Uruguayan Air Force Fairchild FH-227D transporting a school rugby team and their families hit a snow-covered mountaintop on the Cordillera de los Andes. The survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism (the ultimate taboo and perhaps the worst nightmare of most humans) to stay alive until rescue came, 72 days later.

Another tale worth mentioning is that of Aron Ralston, the explorer who had to perform self-amputation to escape certain death (by dehydration or worse) after an 800lb dislodged boulder trapped the then-28 years old outdoorsman by the arm for six days in a canyon in Utah, back in 2003.

Then, there’s Anne Frank, the 14-year-old Dutch girl who was forced to spend two years in a small refuge with relatives and strangers, hiding from the Nazi invaders during WW2. Her story – the classic Diary Of A Young Girl (a.k.a. Diary of Anne Frank) is a moving, at the same time haunting and beautiful, account of survival during one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind.

Our very own Selco had to rely on his inner strength and cunning for an entire year to survive a brutal civil war in his hometown during the Balkans conflict in the ’90s. There are many more conflicts and battles that have happened. There’s probably one taking place as you read this. And indeed, even more, that will remain untold, for one reason or another.

What is the common ground in these stories of survival?

Luck, or chance, whichever you choose to call it, is one thing. But, there is something more. Something that is beyond our limited comprehension, let alone our control. Divine intervention, maybe?

This intervention is evident more perhaps in no other instance than the case of Juliane Koepcke. Most other passengers were thrown out of the aircraft just as she was. But the canopies broke her fall. Ten thousand feet. I’m willing to bet that if there were another 300 or even a thousand passengers in that airplane, she’d have been the only survivor all the same.

But wait, there’s more:

In 1998 famous German director Werner Herzog, inspired by Juliane’s story, made a TV documentary called Wings Of Hope, about her miraculous survival. But here is something interesting: at the time of the accident, Herzog was in Peru scouting locations for his film Aguirre – Wrath of God, and had almost taken that flight.

Juliane survived the crash. Herzog escaped what most certainly would have been his death. At the time, he famously quoted: “She did not leave the airplane; the airplane left her.”

Mystical? Maybe. But I find it hard to overlook something so powerful

I mention her fall from the sky to highlight the role of chance in survival. Because let’s be honest: no matter how we try to rationalize or wrap our heads around it, surviving an airplane crash like that goes even beyond luck. It is a true miracle, an act of God (or whatever supreme force you may believe in).

By picking that, I’m in no way making light of other survivors’ luck. There’s really no measure of luck between escaping a bullet, a plane crash, or an 800lb rock trap: if someone survived SHTF, that’s all there is to it. By a little or a lot, it does not matter.

It’s safe to assume most people believe that chance is a significant player. “It’s just one of those things in life.” “It’s too ethereal and random. Why even bother?” Maybe that’s why I don’t see it discussed much in prepping circles. Perhaps we don’t want to give it too much thought, because after all, it’s way beyond our control. Maybe there are other reasons.

There’s a purpose in reflecting on such things in life in general and when it comes to SHTF and survival. We’re humans. That’s what we do. We try to make sense of things around us, even when there’s no evident meaning, or it seems to escape us entirely. It’s important to reflect, to philosophize.

To have a different perspective, let’s look at the other side of the coin

In Juliane’s case, the remaining 84 passengers who boarded that airplane, including her mother, did not make it. In Selco’s event, countless people remained in that city, only to die and be buried there. The Andes tragedy killed 29 from the 45 passengers: eight on the crash, eight more during an avalanche (another SHTF inside SHTF, which isn’t uncommon), and the rest from extreme cold, sickness, or starvation, until rescued arrived 72 days later.

In the case of Anne Frank, well, it was The Holocaust. Enough said. Some may argue that she was captured by the Nazis just weeks before Hitler committed suicide, and the war ended. Therefore she didn’t really survive SHTF. It’s true, so it happened. And yes, that’s a way to look at it.

I’d offer a different view, though: just like all the others mentioned here (and many more), she survived SHTF, and long enough to even gift us with her beautiful work, her diary, her lessons. We’re all going to die one day. And if death is the common denominator, then how come something like that isn’t victory?

In Aron’s case, it could be said that he survived only by his own merits. No luck, just courage and common sense. In fact, he had bad luck with that rock and all the crap he went through. As if just surviving isn’t lucky enough, he acknowledges that many fortuitous circumstances contributed to him making it instead of bleeding to death.

Surviving for days, weeks, or years in extremely difficult situations is a miracle of the spirit

From an article published in the Washington Post Haunted by Cannibalism: I Will Never Forget That First Incision Roberto Canessa, one of the sixteen survivors of the Andes crash described his experience:

Canessa said he agonized over what they had done and how others would feel about it. He recently talked to People magazine about seeing his mother and father after he was saved.

“I told her, ‘Mother, we had to eat our dead friends,’” he told People, “and she said, ‘That’s okay, that’s okay, sweetie.’ ”

Canessa told his father that his main concern was how the victims’ families would react to the harsh reality.

“I said, ‘I don’t care,’” he told People, ‘”the only thing I want to do is go to the families of my friends who died and tell them what happened. I don’t expect them to understand but they should know what happened.’

“But thank God, people were very receptive and very supportive and they consider what we did something we had to do so everything went very smoothly.”.

“In these kinds of situations,” he told People, “it’s not how you survive but why you survive.”

“It is not how you survive, but why you survive.” So it is. So it is.

Is it just me, or do those few simple words define the essence of survivalism with absolute precision? I could end right here (and maybe I should). I fear any effort to elaborate further on the will to survive, the fortitude to do what is necessary to keep going, may be a waste of words.

At the same time, I feel we must keep reflecting on this. Material and practical preparations are in no way a small matter when it comes to survival. Selco admits to that. Juliane tells how years spent in the middle of the wilderness with her parents prepared her to prevail in the rain forest. I’m sure she, the sixteen survivors of the Andes, and all other survivors would love to have a bag full of tools and cool stuff at hand in any SHTF.

But what really transpires (and inspires) in all these stories is the will of the spirit to be alive

Maybe you noticed I didn’t use the word “fear” when describing Juliane’s reactions after the fall. It’s pretty safe to assume she felt afraid during her entire SHTF.

But in her book, she makes an important distinction: she didn’t fear the forest. She was never afraid of nature. She declares that the forest saved her life. And not just once, but three times. First, when the trees and foliage broke her fall. Then the forest kept her alive for days. Finally, she says it saved her in a broader, more profound sense: by giving purpose and meaning to the rest of her life, just as it did for her parents.

After the crash, Julianne tried to find her mother in the forest. At the shack, she did not take the fishermen’s boat so as not to feel like she was stealing. Later she helped with the recovery of bodies, just days after she was rescued. Now that’s strength, dignity and character right there.

During SHTF, everyone is pushed to the limit. We have to do things we don’t want. That’s how it is. But to be able to see things so clearly and above all, to perform small yet significant acts of integrity and courage like those can keep us strong, sane, human and connected to life.

The gift of hearing stories of survival like these during and after SHTF is perhaps what keeps us connected to life and doing what it takes to keep going.

Now to more practical matters: what training can we do?

There are many ways to train for the most practical situations and scenarios imaginable. There are resources all over the internet on how to prepare for what comes next. There are books and online courses to ready yourself for civil unrest and chaos.

I personally believe in constant practice to have our internal resources and skills more easily and quickly accessed if and when necessary.

I wrote an entire book on how to ‘train’ to be homeless, to survive in the streets. I advocate for controlled exposure to danger, hardship, discomfort, fear, pain, and deprivation to develop discipline, wisdom, fitness; to harden the body, the mind, and the soul.

Is there training for the soul or the spirit?

Yes. There is.

We can achieve this training by witnessing SHTF from the other side of the fence, without having to experience a SHTF situation. How? By helping in places where the consequences of evil have come to the surface and the fallout of SHTF is apparent. SHTF events are happening all around us, all the time. It is 2020 after all.

Other training suggestions: volunteer to work in a hospital, a civil defense organization, an institution that helps the homeless and mentally ill, or rescue centers that treat abandoned or abused animals. Working in prisons and correction institutes is the best (as in most effective) way to get in touch with humankind’s evil and ugly side peaceful times. It’s hard, and it is not for everyone, I admit. And dangerous too. It may not even be possible to volunteer in such places in some countries.

By helping you will gain and give at the same time, which helps to alleviate the suffering on both ends (ours and others’). It’s called “doing good.” I’ve personally found it helps in seeing how lucky we are just to be alive, frequently in better condition than the ones we’re trying to help. The knowledge gained from doing good in the aftermath of evil is priceless.

Almost everyone I know lives in denial or willful ignorance of evil in the world

Sure, everyone knows these things exist – but most from a safe and comfortable distance. Thinking and talking about these things and survival makes people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, too, I admit, even after all these years. But I keep forging ahead while remaining a sensible human.

Many people will not acknowledge SHTF could ever happen to them. We as preppers must, though, especially if we want to become survivalists. I understand life is hard enough for most people as it is. I’m not criticizing, by any means. As a prepper, consciously reflecting, pursuing, and making an effort to develop this conscience, the suggestions above are effective ways to change how we see reality and improve our chances to survive SHTF at the same time.

Reading true stories of survival is a form of training

History shows what people are capable of in extremes. But that’s a glimpse of the collective, for the most part. Individually, nothing can prepare us for a plane crash, a civil war, or a holocaust. There’s no training for cannibalism or to amputate one’s own arm. But we can still take from stories of survival as a reality check. It is an alternative way to prime the psychology and mentality of survival. It is equally a form of gaining something, while at the same time giving something, by honoring the courage and strength of survivors.

As if their hardships were not enough, revisiting the past to tell others about these things is a sign of strength. It should be admired, revered, and inspire us. It opens the mind to the ugly and brute side of life. And, it also opens the mind to the beauty of it all. These people have shown it is possible to survive and find meaning during and after SHTF. Whether you’re a teenager, an experienced explorer, an ordinary worker, or a trained soldier, finding meaning in all things is a precious lesson.

Not to mention these stories contain invaluable, real-life, practical advice on survival in the most varied conditions.

I admit this has been a great deal of information, but, the more you know…

It’s that time of year when many of us begin to reflect on our lives, lessons and the world around us. Even though Selco’s latest “SHTF Survival Bootcamp” is essentially a practical book, for some reason, reading it got me reflecting (again) on these philosophical questions of preparation and survivalism.

I find that soul searching every once in a while, is a good thing and can help me remain grounded, connected.

Preparations, training, plans, and strategies are all great. They have their place, and they keep us working, sharp, and moving forward. I love handling new gear, learning new skills, all of that. Yet I can’t escape the – dare I say – metaphysical aspects of survivalism, which also play a part. And not a small one, as I have attempted to reveal to you in this article.

If my writing has inspired you to pursue other real-life anecdotes, search for answers to all-too-important questions, or to reflect on philosophical matters of survival, then I guess I’ve contributed to something. And I’ll be happy about that.

Speaking of happy

Juliane (Koepcke) Diller still travels by airplane and still loves the rain forest (even more so now, in her own words). She got married and has a family and leads a productive life. She is an incredibly positive person, a living testament to the power of the will to live—the greatness of the spirit of a true survivor.

What do you think the common thread is in all of these unimaginable stories of survival? Share your thoughts – and your own stories – in the comments.

Want to read these stories yourself?

Books are an excellent gift idea for those prepper friends too. (I have also included a movie suggestion.)

Stay Safe! ~ Fabian

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

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  • Pre-destiny. When it’s your time to go there’s nothing you can do. Not saying you can’t make your own decisions or plans along the way but when it comes to how you die you cannot change it. The previous decisions you have made were part of your destiny and lead you to your death.

    Juliane did nothing to prevent herself from dying in the crash and I seriously doubt she had any prior bushcraft skills or jungle survival training. She was not meant to die in that crash but the others were.

    We desperately want to believe we are controlling our destiny because the reality means we are at the mercy of unknown forces or plans of which we can’t control . Prepare, plan and pray along the journey but realize the end will probably not be something you expected.

    • Absolutely, she did nothing to prevent the accident. That is impossible, I agree (That’s why I this is about chance).

      It gets even crazier when you know that In fact she and her mother insisted on the trip that day despite the many prior warnings and concerns of her father about LANSA, regarded by him as a bad airline. Yet it wasn’t that what caused the accident. Crazy.

      She wasn’t an advanced bushcrafter either of course. But by reading her book and knowing her history in more detail, it’s evident that whatever little she knew about wilderness did help saving her. Like following a river, for once. Even only the intimacy with the jungle, made her perhaps not not panic in the middle of one alone.

      I mean… It may sound like something basic, or even intuitive. Maybe, to someone who read a history or is into survival or camping or outdoor. But I’m sure not many would have knowledge like that on tap or know what to do, not most people I know that’s for sure.

      It’s complex and crazy indeed, and tha’s the whole point.

  • There is no doubt in my mind that God intervenes in the lives of men. We have numerous examples of that in my small family alone. We remember those interventions in our family and give thanks, much as the Jewish people remember how God rescued them from numerous troubles and tribulations during their holy days.

    When our kids were young, we’d always read aloud to them every night, and the lives of Christian missionaries were sometimes the fare.

    Bruchko tells the story of Bruce Olsen who ventured into a South American rainforest at the tender age of 18, experienced unheard of difficulties, and lived with the Motilone tribe to this day.

    George Muller ran an orphanage in England, and more than once, he and the orphans sat around the table and gave thanks for the food that wasn’t on their plates. On more one occasion, as “luck” would have it, a milk truck would breakdown outside their orphanage, or some other provision, and the milk had to be “disposed of” or it would go bad. The orphans ate and drank.

    Corrie ten Boom told the story of how she survived (she lost her Father and sister) Nazi death camps and incredibly, how she forgave her tormentors and led others to do the same years later. She and her family were Dutch Christians and her family hid Jews during the Holocaust, which cost them their freedom and for some, their lives.

    It’s no secret– I fine comfort in knowing God has greater knowledge and power than me. His plan is something I may not know completely, but I can trust completely. This gives me and my family resilience, faith, and insight.

    I believe, as preppers, we should give equal consideration to 3 aspects of survival: preparation, learning from wise people, and faith in a God that loves us.

      • There was a man that sat on the top of his house after heavy rains had caused flooding. Some people came by in a rescue boat and offered help and he refused and said that he was waiting on God to save him. Later on, another rescue boat offered assistance and he told them the same thing. He also told the third boat that came by later that day. Well, eventually the flood waters rose so high and the gentleman drowned. When he went to heaven, he asked God why he didn’t save him, and God replied, “I sent 3 boats.” Moral: God requires action from us to prove our faith in him.

        • “God requires action from us to prove our faith in him”

          given that the actions succeed or fail on their own, what is the point of faith that is dependent on the actions?

          in deuteronomy (I think) the definition is given, “the prophet whose word comes to pass,. that prophet is from god. the prophet whose word does not come to pass, that prophet is not from god.” seems to me that that same logic is present here – if you succeed that means god saved you, if you fail that means you’re a sinner/unchosen/whatever.

        • I’m trying to stay away from religion in this, because it’s personal as it gets. But yes I do agree that surviving requires action, always.

      • Perhaps he provides us with the wisdom to anticipate problems and to prepare to sidestep those problems. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.” Proverbs 27:12 KJV

        • “he provides us with the wisdom”

          so it’s not that god provides, it’s that he makes us wise and leaves others dumb?

      • I believe very strongly that God provides, but I also believe that he expects me to do my part. There is a story (joke) about a man stranded on a rooftop of a flooded house. A man came by in a motorboat , he said God will save me. Another boat came by and he told the person the same thing. A helicopter hovered over him and dropped a rope. He said God will save me. When he got to heaven he asked God “why didn’t you save me?” God told him “I sent two boats and a helicopter”. We have to grab the rope or stock up th
        e food, whatever it takes.

      • Do not come in here and virtually urinate all over an article that is filled with hope. If you don’t like it, move on to another article. This is how you get put in permanent moderation.

        • “Do not come in here and virtually urinate all over an article that is filled with hope”

          just asking questions.

          • The thing to remember is that this is a privately owned business. I don’t owe anybody a platform. When someone comes in and begins criticizing all the commenters who are expressing hope, that completely sours the experience for other readers.

            As another example, what if someone came in and began making horrific threats or using ethnic slurs, that would potentially get my website shut down and investigated by the FBI or demonentized by Google? I can’t afford that kind of behavior in my comments section.

            I let 99.9% of the comments go through but when someone is just going through and deliberately making others feel badly, I don’t feel any obligation toward them.

            • I appreciate this comment on so many levels! Just wanted to encourage you!! Today we have lost the respect of freedom, which includes how to run your business. Removing a continual negative commenters ability to discourage the masses is NOT the same thing Facebook (and most other social media platforms have done.)

                • C´mon gman it seems you have a lot more than that to contribute to the debate. Totally agree grid down will be bad but that´s no reason to turn ourselves into SHTFs 😉 Just kidding, I´m sure you can do better than that. Don´t prove me wrong I hate to be mistaken lol. Stay safe.

                • “it seems you have a lot more than that to contribute”

                  … my contributions don’t seem to match the intent or culture of the blog (owner).

        • Daisy,

          gman is the scorpion and Organic Prepper is the frog. He can’t help himself, it’s a compulsion, it’s in his DNA. It’s like telling an addict to just quit. It’s his normal, he can’t imagine any thing else. I’m watching to see if his behavior changes but I suspect it won’t

  • The book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales explores the subject rather well I believe:

    It’s mindset, hope, and motivation. But that’s just the summary.

  • “‘I was definitely strapped in it [the airplane seat] when I fell,’ she said later. ‘It must have turned and buffered the crash; otherwise I wouldn’t have survived.'”

    most “miracles” are one-offs that can be attributed to statistical chance. actual divine interventions are usually clearly not just chance.

    “anne frank”

    my understanding is that her diary is written in ball point pen.

    • and that is not a problem.
      “The first working ballpoint pen was presented at Budapest International Fair in 1931″

      ” in 1938, László Bíró signed a deal with his early backer and business partner, Andor Goy, to produce and sell the pens in Hungary.”

      “This ballpoint pen was licensed and made in Britain as a “Biro” for RAF aircrews which used it at high altitudes (fountain pens used to leak ink when used too high).”

      So ball point pens were in use, well before WW2 started.

      You need to study history, not justify accepting what people make up to support their theories about History.

      • The people I’ve known that pointed out Frank’s diary having been written in ballpoint were either neo-nazis trying to “debunk” the Holocaust. Others were Hitler apologists–educated on YouTube–who tried to assure anyone that would listen to them that Hitler didn’t hate the Jews, and never ordered the killing of anyone–it’s all just lies made up by Jews. I once sarcastically played along, telling the guy I’d heard that Hitler was bum-rapped, that he actually so loved the Jews that every Sunday he had the SS .load their submachine guns and herd the Jews into boxcars and take them Baskin-Robbins…

  • The most important commonality among them is the will to keep going no matter what. To keep thinking and figuring out the situation. To use the powerful computer we each keep between our shoulders for something other than skull padding. Each person mentioned above did not give up, they kept thinking and trying to figure a way out of the situation. Once random chance has decided you’ll be the one to survive, the best thing you can do is keep thinking. Never ever give up.

    Happily, that’s something we can train ourselves to do. We can decide to do the hard chores first. Exercise, try hard things, learn things we aren’t sure we can do. Every step, every bit we can do trains us not to give up. There are so many opportunities to learn grit. It’s a long, hard, sometimes grueling process but taking the attitude that giving up is not an option and nobody is going to save us but ourselves is one of the most important things a person can do.

    Each of these people did what they had to, in order to keep going just a bit longer. They didn’t sit and wait for someone to find them, cook for them, etcetera. Well the folks in the Andes waited for rescue for quite some time but they still worked on survival in the meantime. Prayer is a comfort for some but it still takes hard work to keep going.

    (It’s a slow process – one I’m still working on – but then again, this is about doing hard things and not giving up, isn’t it?)

    • “this is about doing hard things and not giving up”

      hard work seems to be more of an inherited life-habit, or a deficient-knowledge attitude of “what else is there?”, than a choice. there is a reason only .02 of the american population still lives on any kind of productive farm. most people who can will leave a life of sunup to sundown physical labor in favor of a life incorporating more leisure, and of course most people who can will choose a life of total leisure over a life of labor and leisure (throughout most of history this was accomplished through the impressment of slaves). and once leisure is obtained then labor seems a terrible burden impossible to resume – how many modern welfare recipients will be able to work a farm even to avoid starvation? some suburbans whose parents underwent the great depression and won world war two have expressed that they, faced with grid down and the loss of their accustomed lives, will kill themselves rather than return to primitive farming / foraging. and their point is clear – having seen what kind of living is possible, why spend a life struggling to survive and accomplishing nothing more than that?

      • I have done both.

        The so-called dream of a good paying, cushy, white collar job is just that: A dream . . . or more apt, nightmare.
        Sitting in cubical hell, creating documents that will never be read. Spreadsheets that are never used. Mind numbing meetings about nothing. Staring at a screen for 8 or more hours a day, feeling your posterior end getting larger.
        Then the so called “leisure” after work: Staring at another screen of Fakebook, watching other people live life. Or mindless twitter rants. Playing video games for hours on end while neglecting the children as they do the same.
        It is no wonder American society is so grossly unhealthy both physically and mentally.

        Yep. Every day I have to get out and feed and water the livestock. Stack hay. Split and stack wood. I am outside in the sunshine (or even rain), the fresh air. Temps can vary from the 80s-90s to the teens and even lower.
        I dont mind working in the dirt, or weeding.
        At the end of the day, I can harvest the fruit of my labor.
        Flip off the switch to that computer, all those documents, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, did they ever really exist?
        Would anyone really care?

        Grid down situation, I have the knowledge and experience to survive.
        That poor computer dweller with soft hands does not. Faced with having to suffer blisters, sweating, actual manual labor, I could see why the computer dweller would opt for death.
        For those of us who live this kind of prepper lifestyle, we call that “Wednesday.”

        • good answer. though it seems more that you’re simply built for the life you’ve described, which is why you experienced cubical life as you did. most would be quite happy with their experience of the cubical life. I’d say you’re in that .02.

          • I have a number of friends still in cubical hell.
            More than a few are envious of me and that I “got out.”
            One dreams of the day his state legalizes pot and he can leave cubical hell and become a pot farmer.
            Others live vicariously through me.

            Granted, it is more heart wrenching to have to put one of the goats down due to disease than say forgetting to click on “save” and lose a few paragraphs.
            But that is real life.

            • Right there with you JarHead!
              What you have is called freedom in my book. I could never give that up to go live in the city and be chained to some cubical.
              I don’t consider myself simple and by your writings I wouldn’t call you simple either. I enjoy working and having the fruits of my labor. It’s great to go to bed tired after a day of working.
              I also have the knowledge and will to survive in hard times. Life is filled with choices and hard decisions. Shooting one’s self is always an option.
              It takes all kinds.

              • Good morning Dawn,
                Thank you!
                Perspectives change as one has varying experiences.
                Initially that well paying cubical job seemed like the end all, be all goal.
                After a year, found myself saying, is this it?
                By year three I looked forward to Friday afternoons and dreaded Mondays.
                It was not for me. Just like farming is not for others.
                To each their own.
                Funny, we are told to diversify our stock portfolios/401ks, but then specialize in a career. Then just blindly assume it will not go away, get outsourced, or replaced by robot/AI.

          • You’ve got a point here gman.

            Maybe you’ve hard about the PPA – Personal Profile Analysis. It is a 24-item, self-completion, and multi-scale instrument, designed years ago to assess work-related dispositions. It is used by human resource departments everywhere in work interviews.

            It has four scales (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance) linked to the Marston’s theory, that our behaviour is determined by whether we perceive our environment to be antagonistic or favourable, and whether we choose to adopt an active or passive response to it.

            Everyone possess all 4 scales, but of course we vary in dominance of one or another. That is why some people actually love staying indoors doing repetitive work (more steadiness and compliance I guess) while others can’t bear even the thought of something like this (more dominance and influence). It is said to be a personal and fixed trait.

            This test is pretty crazy and it’s incredibly accurate. It can help us have a better assessment of the character and personality among other people’s traits. Check it out it’s worth it and in line with what you said.

            • “Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance”

              nothing about goal orientation? I’ll do pretty much anything – repetitive, subservient, rebellious, loner – so long as it advances a goal I’m oriented towards. I’ve followed regulations to the letter, and I’ve told an entire board of pentagon O5’s that they were wrong and that I wasn’t going to implement what they were intending.

              • Can´t say for sure, it´s not one of the parameters of the PPA test. Maybe b/c goal-oriente is more related to the moment/context than personality or character.

  • One either has the will and spirit to survive,or they don’t. I love life and will fight for it,others will wait for help to come. I know both kinds of people. I hope I don’t have to be put to that trial

  • Another excellent book is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.

  • I have 3 entire books on Survivors of crazy avalanches, plane crashes, ferry boats turning upside down in the North Sea, etc. etc.

    One story was about 5 or 6 people who went sailing in a sailboat off the US Atlantic coast. Some freak thing destroyed their original plans and they found themselves lost and adrift for several days. Two of them whined and complained and hampered the efforts of the others to cope and survive. They could not/would not take the discomfort. One of these drowned after jumping off the boat chasing some hallucination of rescue. The other got sick I think, anyhow she died. The rest mourned their friend, but it was easier without her.

    All those who faced reality and did what they could survived and were eventually rescued.

  • You’re right…Anne Frank and those with her were survivors…it’s just that their luck eventually ran out. I believe only her father made it out of the concentration camps. I’ve seen Wings of Hope and would Julianne’s story be any less amazing and impressive if, after finding civilization, she was just past the point where doctors could save her from the injuries she’d sustained? I don’t think so. She still would have survived the unimaginable for 10 days. She did everything she could to survive and it paid off, but after all of that it could have easily turned out differently. Survival is doing what you can for as long as you can. Everything else is out of your control.

    • Exactly. Well said. Totally agree Caitlin. There´s no point in measuring survival by a single standard, because eventually that day will come to every one of us. It´s what we do in the meantime that counts, that holds true for survival during SHTF but also everyday in normal life. I try to live on that principle.

  • Daisy, I have been reading your blog for a long time, I have only recently began making comments. I really enjoy the “feel good” stories. This one really hit home for me. I strongly believe in guardian angels. I have had more than one occurrence that could not be explained any other way. One of them involved me on a flight to Australia when I had an allergic reaction to a vaccination, became delirious and had to be on oxygen for fourteen hours. My girlfriend held an oxygen mask on me the entire trip. The plane was in emergency status, thinking I was going to die. My girlfriend took a picture of an angel on the airplane wing. when we were coming into Sydney the angel flew away. I have no explanation.
    The other story will be saved for another time.

  • 1938 my auncle Knewl Voss was a navigator for Pan-American as they explored and opened landing strips with a machete. He and my aunt lived in Medene, Columbia. The plane he was in crashed far out in the jungle. Both legs were broken just above the ankles. The others on board had minor or no injures. He encouraged them to walk out with him. No one knew where they were. Radios had gone out as the electrical problems began. They all refused to leave the plan as they feared the jungle.
    He walked toward home and my pregnant Aunt. 30 days later he got there. He drank water that driped off of leaves and ate a little fruit.
    When the rescuers reached the plane all of the men were dead.

  • 1609 Jamestown, VA an ancestor arrived as an indentured servant. That winter was called the Starvation Winter. Escvations and study have show that canabalism was practiced by survivors.
    Its not the usual but has happened in many places over time

  • by the way Daisy i read all of your articles. I get something from each one. Some I enjoy more than others. I often comment. Thank you

    I’ve been verbally offered a book and possible movie contract for myown survival story. 10 months alone in the woods when i was 21. It was a study in figuring out new things. I find that life lesson stuck. I still love to cook outside on a real wood fire. I still forrage. I love the flavors of so many wild plants. I garden as well. I use some medicinal plants. But I’m always looking for ways to accomplish things with little or no money.

  • I have my own unexplainable survival story. I wrote about it here but I didn’t go into detail about one element because it seemed crazy.

    This article seems like an appropriate spot to expand on the story.

    Back in 2013, I had a pretty bad hiking accident. I fell about 30-40 feet down the side of a rocky ravine filled with blackberry bushes. And by “fell” what I really mean is “bounced.” My descent finally stopped when I hit bottom and the wind had been knocked right out of me. My friend wanted me to wait for paramedics but I’m either stubborn, stupid, or both and I was insistent on climbing back up and hiking out to our vehicle. We were making very slow progress because it was extremely steep and I was dizzy from the concussions. Because shock had set in, I didn’t really feel that much pain from the other injuries. (Trust me, I felt it later!)

    We hadn’t gotten very far when a voice from the top asked, “Do you need some help?”

    We looked up to see a bearded man and a woman at the top of the cliff. My friend said yes and explained that I had fallen.

    The man bounded down in record time and held out his hand to me. He said, “Don’t look down. Just look at me. I promise I won’t let you fall.” And in what felt like two giant steps, I was up at the top. He went back down to pull up my friend.

    But that’s not the strangest part. We turned to thank the man and woman and they were both gone. They’d completely vanished. Some other hikers were standing around asking if I was okay and offering water and I said, “Did you see that guy who pulled us up?” They had all seen him but nobody knew where he went.

    He and his friend had disappeared every bit as quickly as they had appeared. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken us to get back up without his help due to my injuries. The feeling of safety I got from that mysterious helper is simply impossible to explain.

  • So many positive outcomes out of harrowing and awful situations. Thanks to Fabian for writing this piece and to Daisy for publishing it. We all need reminders of the light that vanquishes the darkness. Thank you!

  • The one thing that resonates through all of these stories is attitude. No one gave up. They kept their eyes on the prize, if you will. I don’t doubt they had time with their Supreme Being of choice. I believe that’s what we do as humans. We KNOW we didn’t just APPEAR one day. SOMEONE created us. And that Someone wants us to look to Them in times of need. If a SHTF event occurs, the first thing I do is ask for help. But it is about attitude. You either think you can make it or you resign yourself to give up. Thanks for the article. It is inspiring.

  • I agree that sometimes we need to look at the metaphysical side of survivor stories. Thank you for this great article.

  • I worked for 7 years at a non-profit helping expectant and new moms who had many social struggles ( housing, food insecurity, no family support, etc.). One thing I came to realize is that the moms did the best they could with the resources they had available to them.

    No place to stay – they couch surfed with friends.
    No food – a friend would share with them. And it was expected that they would share their food with that friend at a later time.
    Being evicted- take what they could and leave the rest.
    If they learned about a food giveaway or clothing distribution they made sure their friends heard about it.
    Usually one friend, or friend of a friend, had a car. Just pay a little bit (money or cigarettes) for gas.

    And so on. It was survival in the downtown neighborhood s of a small city.

    Being a middle class white collar worker I learned a lot about the negotiations and techniques most of the women used to survive when resources were tight.

  • I love reading your articles, and this is a good one. I hope that if something horrible happened to me that I would have the strength to survive. I have the will to keep going, but at 73 strength is a slight problem some days. Thank you Fabian.

  • It has been my observation that modern people tend to think that because we have all these modern amenities to make life “easier,” and because we might be more aware of the world and perhaps better educated without the superstitions and imaginary forces of our predecessors, there is much less evil in the world. However, it seems there is at least as much, if not more, evil in the world. Evil overtakes more readily who don’t belief it exists or is close proximity to themselves.

  • There are substantiated opinions that the Anne Frank “story” is a forgery meant in part to support what is sometimes called the Holocaust Industry.

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