Survivors Of Catastrophes Share The Nightmares They Had To Go Through
Life and death situations are no joke and they can happen at anytime. If anything we can all take away is from these stories is one should always keep calm, never lose spirit and stay together in the face of calamities.
When I was a very young child, I lived in South East Asia. One day early in the morning I was just playing, my parents must have been doing their morning prayers and the next thing I knew the entirety of the ocean was spilling over itself. We lived on the coast at this time and it was like the whole ocean had just lifted out. My dad grabbed me and ran towards a block of apartments at the end of the street. I don't know what happened to my mum but she must have been unable to run fast enough because I'm pretty sure she got overwhelmed by the tide and survived by holding on to a tree.
I'm not entirely sure how she survived actually, because looking back on the extent of the 2004 tsunami she should have been swept away completely by the force of the water.
So now I'm on the top of this roof and my dad
goes back in, swimming to our house to retrieve our passports and documents, while the water keeps creeping up. I think it was a 4 or 5 storey building and the water must have reached the second or 3rd floor. He must have been a really strong swimmer because he got pretty much all of our documents in between the waves and saved my mum as well.
After this we stayed with friends some distance away, and everything in the town got destroyed. On growing up I realized the reason why my parents don't bring up my childhood friends or try to keep in contact with their families is because they're dead. This is pretty much the only really vivid memory I have from that age. My parents still kind of have a fear of the sea.
Me and a friend were caught in the wildfires in Tennessee last year and had to find a way to get out. I was at a his house, helping him move of all things. The local govt didn't call for any evacuations at the time, so we just went on with moving stuff in. There was smoke everywhere, but we couldn't tell where it was coming from or how close it was. We wore face masks to help with breathing outside.
Once daylight was starting to go away, the darkness made it easier to see where the fires were. To our surprise, the fires were all around us going up and down mountains. Once they did a mandatory evacuation, it was already to late for a lot of people. We started down the mountain and the further down we got, the more fire we saw.
Trees, bushes and brush were all on fire all around us. Trees and power lines were falling. We got to a place on the road were a tree had blocked the road. We couldn't back up, because the roads were small and there were people behind us. We were in a big truck. My buddy said he was going to try and push the tree out of the way. After a few tries we were able to push it slightly out of the way which no doubt helped the other people behind us too.
The inside of the truck was really hot. We wanted to open the windows but then the smoke would get in. We somehow made it off the mountain in one piece.
My mother owned a few aircrafts and hangars at our small town's airport. I spent a lot of time at the airport as I was growing up spending summer washing airplanes, sweeping out hangars, etc.
One warm summer afternoon in the mid-1980's we planned to take a short flight in her Piper J-3 Cub. This plane was built in the mid-1940's and had an aluminum skeleton covered in fabric and tandem seats, one in front, one in back. I sat in front due to the better view and my mom, the pilot, sat in back. I remember the pre-flight, and some taxiing to the runway, but nothing else. The rest of the story I received second hand.
Neither my mom nor I remember anything of the actual accident due to the massive head trauma we both received. But what I've heard from family and the ambulance drivers who arrived on the scene is that on take off, the most dangerous part of any flight, we lost power. Our engine cut out, not sure why.
So with a relatively slow airspeed and no thrust from the engine we changed from being a beautiful flying machine to a brick, rather quickly. We dropped like a brick and proceeded to hit the ground in a rather quick manner. The ambulance drivers who arrived on the scene thought we were done for.
Things did not look good for us. But after a helicopter ride to the nearest trauma centre a hundred miles away, we are still alive and breathing today. I spent about 5 weeks in the hospital, but only remember the last two. To remind me what happened I have nasty scars on my lower lip and chin and a dent on the side of head. One thing I find myself wondering is if I had the chance to relive the whole thing over again would I want to remember? At this point in my life I can say I would not. Such things are not worth remembering. And did we ever fly again? You bet. As soon as my mom was able to pass a flight physical we were both up in the air again.
Since I live in Chile, I'm used to earthquakes. Perhaps in some countries an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 is something big, but here that is kind of normal. But the one I will never forget is the 8.8 earthquake that happened in Santiago, chile.
Let me explain a bit, I am a native of the northern region of the country, where most of the earthquakes happen, so the constructions are especially resistant against earthquakes. Santiago is not like that, they rarely get movement.
Back to the story. I was going to a concert in Santiago and was staying in a friend's apartment for the week. It was 27th of February, 2010, 3:33 am, and we were chilling with some of his friends when suddenly all the light went down. We thought that maybe the building lost power, but then, looking through the large windows we saw the city go dark.
I dont know if you guys have been in an apartment building during a huge earthquake, but the experience is like being on top of a wet noodle while it moves from one side to another, constantly.
The first thing that got to my head is to stay away from the large windows and go under the table. I happened to be very calm minded in this situations, while my friend and his buddies where screaming like crazy. I tried to keep them calm by telling them the usual everything is going to be ok, earthquakes are very short so we just needed to wait in safe.
I was wrong, the earthquake was 3 minutes long. The largest 3 minutes of my life!
When it finished I was relieved. I checked if everyone was ok and they were, just scared beyond limit. I told my friend, his name's Ben by the way, that we need to get out of there.
Ben gave me his reason and begin packing up a backpack with some supplies, while his friends just run of the place to get to their families. I asked them to stop, and told them we need to stay cool and together, but their need to see their families was greater and I totally understand that.
Ben finished packing and we started running to the emergency stairs, we were making our way out using the cellphone lights to illuminate the hallway when suddenly Ben stopped for nothing. I ask him what's wrong and he just says look, pointing the flash of the phone to the floor.
It was just like the movies, the building was split in half. I yell ohh shiet when he falls on his knees, looking at the bottom of the building, his friends, in the rush to see their families, didnt see the building was split in half and fell down. Ben started crying and I was in shook, just 30 minutes before I was hanging out with them, laughing, and now I was seeing their bodies.
Echoes of screams and cries created the atmosphere of that night, as we made our way down through the holes in the building. While doing that we tried to help as many people as we could, some trapped by giant stones, some just dead. The one image that will stick to me forever, was the one of a mother hugging her daughter in order to protect her, both of them dead.
We got to the place where Ben's friends fell, and we thank to god, they were still alive, many broken bones but alive. We took them one by one to the road and wait for help from police, military, medics and fireman. Lucky us, we all made it alive.
I watch and experienced two extreme sides of humanity that day, the ones that tried everything to help others in anyway possible, and the other, the ones that took advantage of the situation and were busy stealing things from destroyed homes.
I was pilot-in-command of a small Cessna, taking my dad out for his first sightseeing ride on an October evening. He'd taken the backseat in one of my training sessions before, but this time was the first time the two of us were alone together and at liberty to go as we pleased.
After a while, I noticed that the engine had lost 300 RPM. I pushed the throttle to max but no change. I turned on the carb heat (if I remember correctly). But nope, still nothing. I began heading back to the airport, but as the power slowly diminished, I knew we wouldn't make it back by a long shot.
Now I had to get that bird down somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
It was night time. Beneath me were patches of fields or forest, I couldn't tell which was which in the evening darkness. I opted for the only well-lit place in the circumstance, the freeway.
I made my emergency call, got a response, told my dad what I was about to do, and proceeded to fly the airplane. By the time I was on my so-called final approach, the engine was puttering along at a measly 1000 RPM despite a full-open throttle. All I had to do was to follow a slight bend in the freeway to the left, just past a viaduct, and I'd have three open lanes of road on which to land, and probably surprise a few drivers along the way.
Huge black bars suddenly showed up in my field of vision, followed by bright white flashes of light. The aircraft had just struck high-voltage power lines.
By the time I was done screaming, the aircraft had rolled down in a side ditch and slammed itself against a fence.
Ambulances arrived within a minute, pulled my dad and me out, and raced us to the hospital. I awoke in a dimly-lit hospital room - dimly lit because of the city-wide power failure I'd just caused, which I realized once all the other lights turned on late at night and the nurses cheered at getting power back.
Somehow, I didn't break anything, though I had a sore and stiff body for a few weeks, and my back became prone to locking for the next several years. My father had a few broken bones, but was judged stable and set to recover. However, he suddenly and unexpectedly succumbed to his wounds a week later.
I haven't piloted an aircraft since, and have no desire to. I can be a passenger in an airliner or a commercial small aircraft without a problem, but my days of flying are over.
When I was 19 my buddy and I went fishing in a pretty big lake, up in Gainesville Florida. I was sitting at the very front with the cooler to balance out the weight.
While we were crossing the middle of the lake in our gheenoe we had a paddle strapped to the side. The paddle caught water while we were going about 20mph, and threw us probably 7-10 ft. We immediately started sinking.
About five minutes before that happened we had decided to put both of our phones in a water proof box which ultimately saved us. There was no one else out that day given it was a little chilly outside. After we were in the water the boat started sinking fast but my friend and I stayed calm and started brainstorming on what we should do.
First thing I did was swim down to the boat, find the phones, get them up and once that happened we called the police. There response time was awful, we were treading in water that was cold enough to give us hypothermia, with the box that had our phones in it over our heads for about 50 minuets until the dispatch lady said they were commandeering someone elses boat because theres wasnt starting.
Once we got out the officers told us that they were expecting to find us dead either from getting stuck on the mushy bottom and drowning or eaten by some of the big gators. Luckily we didnt encounter any of that. After the ambulance took our temperature and checked if we came back fine they proceeded to make sure we were okay and then let us get on with our day.
Life and death situations are no joke and they can happen at anytime. Make sure you are prepared mentally and physically, your life or your friend's may depend on you and how ready you are.
I was in a plane crash in 2013.
3 friends and I had taken a Cessna to interior BC for the long weekend, one friend had their private pilot license.
The day we were heading home it was quite hot, and the plane was, according to investigators, over-loaded and fuelled for the heat and the altitude.
Once we reached 2000 feet above takeoff we began losing airspeed.
The pilot panicked and did some steep turns in an attempt to gain some speed, but it scrubbed nearly all our altitude pretty much instantly. Now at a few hundred feet and descending rapidly the pilot took aim at a farmers' field. They managed to level out at around tree-height but we were quickly running out of field.
Maybe a hundred or so meters before the end of the field they dropped the plane to the ground, the nose dug in and we flipped end for end.
I ended up walking away essentially unscathed, minor bruising from the seat belt and some small scratches. The pilot had a pretty good cut, and bashed their knee up on the dashboard. The front passenger, my girlfriend, took pretty much the brunt of it all. Her seat ripped off the floor, smashing her against the roof. It shredded the ligaments in one side of her neck, compressed her spine, and concussed her badly. The ligaments were bad, and are still causing issues now 5 years later. But the post concussion issues were far worse. Watching someone you love lose the ability to read, remember what they had for breakfast or whether or not they had breakfast, maintain any semblance of emotional stability, or even do something like play a board game to pass the time (learning and remembering rules was too stressful) was the worst thing I have ever experienced.
It took a solid 2 years before things started returning to what I could call normal.
I was stuck in a bushfire here in Australia. My wife, myself and our infant son were in the car evacuating via the only road out of our small town. We got very little warning and the fire moved so very fast.
The fire was coming towards us from the right side of the road. There was smoke everywhere, we could hardly see anything. My wife was driving and she luckily saw the truck in front of us, and stopped right in time before hitting it.
A semi-trailer truck (18 wheeler) had jack-knifed in the road and was blocking the way. We couldn't see if anyone was in the truck. I was going to go out and check but the fire was now at the roadside on our right, and years of fire safety education had taught me "You stay in the car, always."
We had a UHF radio in the car so tried to contact the truck on that but got no response. The fire started to blow across the road and ignite the bush on our left.
There were embers raining down on our car, we just stared at them bouncing off the car bonnet. I saw a flashing red glow in the smoke beyond the semi-trailer truck and it took me a minute or so to figure out what I was seeing. It was a fire service truck. I had to fight every bit of instinct I had in me which was screaming at me to grab my baby, hide him inside my clothes and run towards those red lights.
I doubt if I'd have made it, the fire was literally blowing around in front of us but I know that was the strongest instinct I've ever felt. I just sat there in the car repeating over and over to myself, "stay in the car, stay in the car".
My wife managed to contact that fire service truck on the UHF to alert them of our presence. They sprayed water over us while a secondary truck drove through the burning scrub around the big truck to reach us and then the rest all is a blur - being transferred to their truck and driving out of there watching the bushfire raging behind us.
We saw the news in hospital. They reported two deceased people found in that semi-trailer truck.
Back in 2008, I was in a hiking/sight seeing tour with a well known rugged travel outfitter. The tour started in New Delhi, India and ended in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Halfway thru the tour, we meander our way to Varanasi when there were rumors of strikes in Nepal - mainly Lumbini and the Chitwan national park area. So instead of taking a bus to the border to get to the park in Nepal, we took a plane. Crisis averted right? We thought the same.
We landed in Kathmandu, and first the baggage handlers decided to strike, so we had to wait about 5 hours to get our bags.
We stayed about a day at Kathmandu and the strike almost ended. We ended up proceeding with our trip to the Chitwan national park and staying at a homestay for a few days.
After a few days of getting our fill of elephant riding, hippo watching and tiger tracking there were rumors going around in the village about a huge strike starting next day with travel on the roads potentially barred with the threat of death.
We all decided to head out extremely early so we would not be stuck in Chitwan for days and weeks. So around 3am, me and 11 other members of the group and our guide and driver head out into the dark and onto Kathmandu.
It was quiet for about the 15-20 minutes of driving in the dark, lots of meandering turns around small villages and lakes. However that was stopped short. We saw a small minibus torched, fires burning wildly and soon we were stopped by these masked villagers holding sticks. One of them came to the drivers side, pulled the driver out, and proceeded to repeatedly smack him on his face over and over.
Another masked man tried to open our passenger door, but luckily it could only be opened by one side, and luckily it was held tightly closed by a burly Australian member of our group. While this was going on, another masked man broke our back window, this resulted in a few of us crying in fear.
Me, my cousin and a few other guys were thinking of breaking out of the car and tackling these masked men with skirts (longyis). We figured the combined arms of a few Americans, Aussies and a German can take them down. No sooner than we thought of that plan, motorcycles started roaring in close by, carrying molotov cocktails (petrol bombs)... crap!!
Our guide and the driver started pleading with them, saying we are tourists, there are women in here and that we will go back in peace, if they just let us go. They eventually let us go, told us to turn around and dont come out until the strike is over.
To this day, every time I hear glass break - I cringe and remember these events clearly.
I was in a plane crash when I was 9. It was a small plane, with only my dad and me inside. The plane had 4 doors and one propeller - that kind of plane.
We were about 1000 feet over the San Francisco Bay, and the engine quit. The plane proceeded to fall, as would be the case. As we approached the water my 9 year old brain was coming to grips with the concept of death.
We hit the water, the plane skipped a few times, and water began to flood through the floor. My dad and I got out and sat on the wing of our sinking plane for about 30 minutes, until the plane was too sunk to stay sitting on, and then we had no choice other than to swim towards shore.
The shoreline was miles away at least, however we had no other options. As we were swimming, and this was October, the water was freezing, another recreational pilot in a helicopter flew overhead and attempted to drop us life jackets. One was horribly off the mark, but we were able to grab the second one.
After swimming for half a mile in t-shirts and shorts we came across a mud flat and dragged ourselves onto it.
We were waiting there for a while, and a department of fish and game boat trolled by, looking for illegal hunters. This led to our rescue.
When I got home, I took the best shower of my life.
Now, Im 19 and am doing doing fine, but still have a residual fear of flying.
What really left an impact on me is the experience of a worst case scenario. Now my mind will usually jump to that in most situations. This anxiety has led to me being incredibly jumpy, and on edge constantly.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest itself in all walks of life. Even tiniest things get me spooked sometimes. As a 9 year old without any follow up therapy, coming to terms of this experience on my own has really shaped my character.
Dad and his company managed to pull the plane up out of the water to see if they could determine a cause. Condensation in the fuel bladders of the plane put water in the engine, killing it mid flight. The plane was far too damaged to be anything other than scrap at that point.
On a positive note, this accident gave me a new perspective on life, and showed me that life can be taken away just as easily as it is given. Life each day like it could be your last!!
When I was 10 years old, less than 10 days before Christmas time there was a gas leak at my house. We had no idea it was leaking, but it had been building up behind hour wall near the gas fireplace for a while.
It was morning, I was getting ready to go to school. My mom was almost ready to go to work, and I was tying my shoes to head out the door. My mom comes out of the bathroom and is putting on her earrings, grabbing her cellphone, etc and is heading toward the door. She tells me to unplug the christmas tree lights (we love decorating). When I did the spark from unplugging them ignited the box around the socket, and then the pocket of gas behind the wall. It all blew up.
The fireplace was pushed out of the wall in one whole piece! The wall was destroyed. The mantle over the fireplace flew clear across the room. The Nutcrackers we left on the fireplace flew across the room and 2 got embedded in the wall. The Christmas tree (luckily a fake plastic one) was knocked over.
The side facing the wall curled, melted, and burned. Almost every ornament made of breakable stuff was shattered either from the boom, or by falling.
The shock wave traveled through the house, down the hallway into my mom's room and blew out the sliding glass door, shatering it into pieces the size of pennies or smaller. Throughout the house were stress cracks in the sheet rock. Cracks in windows. Various things.
But we were lucky. I got only minor burns on my face. I was just off to the side of said blown up wall. My mom was sitting on a chair near the door, far away from it all. Had she sat on the couch to put on her shoes (as she does sometimes) she may have been severely injured or worse. There was no real fire. It was more of a blast of really hot air, and really fast. The fireman chief called it a "flash fire". There was no fire because there was nothing close enough to the hottest part that could ignite. Good thing we got a fake reusable tree that year to save money, If we had not, it DEFINITELY would of blown up.
I was in a smallish fishing boat charter that sank a little less than 12 miles from a Caribbean island in the Atlantic. From the first sign of trouble to looking straight down at the boat slowly sinking beneath the surface was only about 10 minutes time. Trust me when I say that's an image I'll never forget -- a white sport fisher being swallowed by the dark blue beneath me.
Somewhere in the chaos the captain called his friends in the marina before the boat sank, so we waited there just drifting for a while, holding any floating debris we could hang on to. Fortunately we had life vests otherwise I have no doubt we'd all be dead.
2 hours pass and nobody comes by to pick us up. Clouds and rain are more frequent here, so we lose sight of the island occasionally. I finally convince everyone to agree to start swimming towards the island -- I know the best thing to do is stay together and not move, but the island didn't seem too too far away, and it was obvious to me that nobody was going to find us at this point.
Just as we start slowly moving a helicopter comes and hovers somewhere between us and the island, presumably over the coordinates the captain gave his friends. I swim my gut out towards that thing and in doing so lose sight of the captain and first mate. Now it's just me and my sister, and the helicopter has left. That was a heartbreaker. But, given the weather there was almost zero chance of them spotting us unless we were right under them.
We decide our best chance at survival is to keep swimming towards the island. The whole time it's rainy, cloudy, rough seas, and much of the time (literally hours) we can't see the island AT ALL and use the wind as our directional guide. That sensation of not being able to see anything but grey skies and waves with nothing to grasp on to was the toughest part.
We did see another helicopter before nightfall when the weather started clearing a bit, but it was way too far away from us. Nightfall is also when we can tell that we actually made progress and were getting closer to the island, in the darkness we could look at a handful of lights on the island and one bright spot that was probably a resort.
Fast forward to maybe 2 or 3am, some 15-16 hours after the boat sank, and we actually get to the island. It's mostly cliffs, the water is colder (being churned from the deep by the currents hitting the island), so we swim South until we can see water that isn't white. We get out of the water maybe an hour later and can barely walk. There are some lights in the distance but no way we were gonna get to them in our condition, so we just tried to stay warm under some trees out of the rain. No sleep, just shivering and trying to stay warm.
Finally the sun comes up and we are able to stop shivering. We can walk somewhat better now. We drink from a nearby stream -- assuming we'll get to help before we die from some water borne parasite -- and start hiking over the hills. I tossed my life vest into a tree just in case someone spots it. The hike takes us a few hours over two ridges and through some pretty thick brush. Fortunately there were a few more streams. We finally get to a makeshift farm of sorts and decide to eat some bananas from a small banana grove. That's when we spot a guy walking to work on the farm. He feeds us some crackers and water and walks up the road to call the police for us.
Based on where we got to land they changed their search and found the captain and first mate in the water shortly thereafter. We all end up in the hospital around the same time, and we finally got to escape the hospital after ~36 hours and several bags of IV fluids. Of course there's a lot more that happened in that whole 72hour period, there were times our spirits broke and we thought it was the end.
We went back about 8 months later and tried to get a boat to take us to where we got to land, but they all said it was too dangerous, ha!
It was all over the news for like 2.6 minutes, like everything these days. Even though we all survived, I still have PTSD from that event, which is not cool. I am well triggered when I'm on the water and it's stormy or in airplanes and it's turbulent (and I fly all the time sigh).
In anycase, I'm planning on buying a sailboat by the end of the year and sailing around the Caribbean and Central America.
About 10 of my friends were at a party at a buddys house for the 4th. Their deck was about 30 feet off the ground - 2nd floor deck, sloping back yard.
Id just sat down and I heard what sounded like a tree falling. I remember looking towards a friend to ask what was that? but barely even got what out of my mouth when the deck went out from under us. Turns out, the sound was the deck separating from the house. We hit the ground, and then the deck, still attached to two supports flipped over on top of us.
Luckily, they had metal patio furniture which kept the deck off of us or wed have been crushed. I busted my lip, broke my nose and a tooth. My friend that owns the house busted her whole face open and had to have reconstructive surgery. Another friend landed on the hot grill wed just finished with and now has grill marks scarred into his backside. That was the worst of it though. Were super lucky no one died.
One friend that didnt show up would have had their two toddlers with them, which could have been horrific.
Note: Content has been modified for clarity.
Breaking up is hard to do.
And when you get the law involved, it's even worse. But sometimes people don't need the law's help to make things overcomplicated, they just have a grand ole time making that happen themselves.
People on the front lines of human cruelty include divorce lawyers. These are their stories.