Omahans Hear Story of Survival

By Qianna Bradley, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

May 8–No food, no clothes, no water.

There was no life at 14,000 feet in the Andes for an Uruguayan rugby team, whose plane crashed in the mountains in October 1972.

The team was on its way to Chile for a match.

For Nando Parrado, one of 16 of the 45 people who survived the disaster, the memories are still vivid.

“Rescue didn’t come on the first day, second day or third day,” Parrado told a crowd of more than 1,200 Monday at the ninth annual D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon at the Qwest Center Omaha. “Day six, day seven, day eight — they never came.”

Help didn’t come for 72 days.

Parrado, who was 19 at the time, recalled the temperatures of 40 degrees below zero at night, huddling with his teammates for warmth.

“The cold burned like acid,” he said.

Parrado was knocked unconscious by the crash, suffering a fractured skull in four places.

When he awoke, he learned that his mother, who had come along on the trip, was killed in the crash and that his sister was near death. She died while he held her in his arms.

The survivors were finally rescued in December 1972.

Their story became the best-selling book “Alive,” and a movie starring Ethan Hawke as Parrado.

The real Parrado told his Omaha audience that the biggest key to survival is having love for your family.

“You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

The Salvation Army coordinates the event to pay tribute to six young Nebraskans who persevere to excel in school and in their communities.

The D.J.’s Hero awards are named in memory of D.J. Sokol, son of David and Peggy Sokol, who lost his battle with cancer at age 18.

The awards honor teenagers between the ages of 17 and 19. Recipients receive a $5,000 scholarship.

This year’s heroes are:

Zane Fried of Omaha: Fried, 18, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2005. His mission is to help others deal with cancer. When friends held a fundraiser for him, Fried donated the money to younger cancer patients at the Nebraska Medical Center so they could have toys and parties. His sense of humor has helped him write a book, which he is trying to get published, called “Awww, Crap: A Teenager’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year of Cancer.” With his cancer in remission, Fried has been accepted at the University of Southern California.

Nia Karmann of Grand Island: Karmann does not let spina bifida stop her from giving to others. She conducts classes for senior citizens at nursing homes and teaches children crafts and photography. The 18-year-old, who uses crutches and a wheelchair to get around, teaches children to clog dance and ride horses. She also volunteers in her church’s nursery, collects food for pantries and helps with the Toys for Tots program.

Micheal Kimberly of Holdrege: The 18-year-old volunteers as a mentor to elementary school pupils and wants to become a history teacher and teach near his hometown. Kimberly intends to become the first in his family to graduate from college. When he was 6 months old, his father was severely injured in a fall from a tree. Kimberly has willingly become one of his caretakers. He also volunteers unloading trucks and carrying groceries for senior citizens.

Chelsea LeGrow of Omaha: LeGrow reaches out to others and keeps a positive attitude, as she gives her time making and delivering blankets to children with cancer. The 18-year-old also has given love and care to 50 foster children that her parents have taken into their home. She befriends and helps special-needs children at her school, is involved in numerous community groups and is a youth leader at her church.

Katherine Schueths of Lincoln: The 18-year-old holds the highest honor that a Girl Scout can receive, the Gold Award. She trained a therapy dog named Casey and visits patients at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. Schueths is also a Junior Achievement award winner and volunteers with Alzheimer’s patients. She has dealt with her own health problems, suffering strokes at age 11. She developed a program for people with stroke-related disabilities, called Two Size Shoe Exchange, for people who wear different sized shoes.

Sara Watson of Alliance: Watson has participated in 22 volunteer activities in high school. The 17-year-old senior volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program, Adopt a Grandparent and a community food drive, among others. She has shown perseverance through her mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer and her father’s death. She is president of her student council and was class president for three years.

The Salvation Army also honors an adult hero each year.

This year it’s Louie Warren, president and CEO of Greater Omaha YMCA. Warren has spent 31 years with the organization, helping young people find a better future.


Copyright (c) 2007, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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