Ten-year-old Ruben van Ashout is the sole survivor of the recent Afriqiyah Airways’ crash in Libya. He lost his parents and brother. It’s impossible to imagine how he might feel now or in the future.

13-year-old Baya Bakari was the only survivor of the Yemenia Airways’ crash almost a year ago off the coast of Comoros. This crash sits heavily in my heart. One of my university students at the time vanished without notifying anyone. When he returned a couple of days later he explained that he had lost eight family members in the plane disaster. His sister had lost her husband and her children. It was difficult to contain my emotion. I know what it’s like to lose your child, but to lose all of your children and also your partner is completely incomprehensible. And how to you manage to keep going?

Juliane Kopcke was seventeen years old when in 1971 the plane she and her mother were on broke up above the Amazonian rainforest. The sole survivor, she sustained only relatively minor injuries after falling more than three kilometres. She then walked for ten days through the jungle until she came across a loggers’ camp and was rescued. An incredible story of survival.

Juliane’s outlook on life changed as a result of the tragedy. In an interview last year she said, “I live life much more consciously than before, because I realised that you can’t take it for granted that you’re alive.” She also said she was left with a feeling that she had to do something with her life, “to live in the moment and realise that it is not a given that you’re healthy – any day something could happen to you.”

If you’re trying to survive, try to remember Juliane’s words of wisdom and celebrate the fact that you’re alive in this moment. Celebrate life and, more importantly, celebrate YOUR life.


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