Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Another 50 year anniversary. Fifty years! Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
We've hit another anniversary: of a story I'll bet almost everyone has heard or read before.
It was 50 years ago this week that Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying 40 passengers and a crew of five, crashed in the Andes mountains. Twelve people died immediately; another 17 perished before the ordeal was over.
After more than two months in the snow, three of the passengers escaped, climbing 24 miles through steep terrain with only the most rudimentary, self-made equipment, and finally reached civilization.
As a result, 13 more in the group were eventually rescued. It's a well-documented story; perhaps you read Alive, the award-winning book from the 1970s, or saw the movie version with Ethan Hawke.
There are so many twists and turns in this story. Of course, there is the memorable detail that some of the passengers made a pact that if they died, their surviving friends should eat their flesh to survive, since there were no food sources that high in the mountains.
Honestly, 10 minutes on the Wikipedia page for the crash will probably leave you with some serious emotional reactions.
After mulling over this story and the anniversary for a week or so (once I looked at the calendar), I find myself reflecting not so much on the crash and survival story, but the fact that it's been 50 years.
It's not just that they had such intense will to overcome the odds and live—it's that they've now gone on to live basically normal lives, for half a century more. I don't know if anyone's keeping score, and I truly believe that a single day is a precious gift.
But, by any standard: Fifty years and counting? They won!
Perhaps it's because I only just yesterday wrote something about Vietnam prisoners of war—many of whom spent years in horrible conditions before release; actually it's probably more likely that I was drawn to yesterday's because I'd already been thinking about this story.
Anyway, I like to end the week with a question or two, and I suspect you will have some fascinating answers and stories to share. And I don’t know how to ask them better than the way I’ve asked myself:
What were the moments when you came closest to not having a tomorrow (my euphemism for death). How do you remember them now?
What were the all-encompassing ordeals in your life—not as dramatic as Flight 571, but we all have them; a job, a relationship, a health scare, etc.—that you look back on now, grateful not only to have survived but to have put them far in the rearview mirror? What did you learn?
And what other inspiring stories like this, no matter whether they were yours or not, should people know about and remember?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
A 12-person jury on Thursday recommended life in prison without parole for Nikolas Cruz, the gunman responsible for the 2018 massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The death penalty was on the table for Cruz, but the jury would've had to reach that decision unanimously. (Axios)
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted unanimously Thursday to subpoena former President Donald Trump. Members of the panel, which held what was expected to be its final hearing before the midterm elections Thursday, had previously said that they were still considering seeking an interview with Trump or former Vice President Mike Pence. (NBC News)
A new experimental program in Los Angeles County is offering universal basic income, with $1,000 monthly payments to a select group of young adults. Recipients will be randomly selected from among those enrolled in the General Relief Opportunities for Work, or GROW, program, which provides employment and training services for young adults who face employment and educational barriers and often come from vulnerable backgrounds, including being unhoused or unsheltered. (LA Times)
The vast majority of the $800 billion the U.S. started giving in Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020 has been forgiven, according to government data, and the SBA expects that figure to grow to nearly 100% as more forgiveness requests are processed this fall. (NPR)
An upstate New York woman has been arrested for allowing her 10-year-old son to get a large tattoo across his forearm, artwork that was spotted by a school employee who reported the illegal ink to law enforcement. The resulting tattoo—the boy’s name in “full-size block letters”—was inked across the child’s forearm, say police. Officials learned of the tattoo earlier this month when the boy asked the nurse at his middle school to apply Vaseline atop the fresh ink. (The Smoking Gun)
How to carve a pumpkin. I'm including this groundbreaking because: how many pumpkins have I carved over the years, and it never occurred to me to open the bottom, not the top, so you can put the jack o'lantern over a candle or light, instead of trying to get one to stay upright inside the pumpkin mess. (Good Housekeeping)
The FAA confirms: It's OK to put Apple AirTags in your luggage to track it. Lufthansa had reportedly planned to ban them, but now the German airline is backing off. (The Points Guy)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Unsplash. See you in the comments, and have a great weekend!