Feature Writer Terri Winaught – He Walked by Faith

On October 13, 1972, I was a freshman at Chatham College (now Chatham University) in Pittsburgh, PA. My major was music and my specialty was voice.

Though I have long since forgotten any of the specifics I did on that day almost 41 years ago, Uruguayan native Nando Parrado will never forget what he was doing, looking forward to, and never could have imagined.

That day the accomplished rugby player and members of his family went to an airport in Uruguay where his father’s departing greeting was that he would see him the following Monday. They had no way to know, though, that the anticipated meeting was not to be. In fact, it would be months before father and son would see each other again. During that time, Nando’s father would have every reason to believe that his 21 year old son was dead. The unforgettable event that will be forever etched into many memories is the plane crash that occurred later that day in the highest — and therefore most forbidding peak — of the Andes Mountains. To say that what happened was a crash isn’t entirely accurate, however, since there were actually three crashes — different parts of the plane having crashed at different times in different parts of the mountains. What the survivors had no way to know at the time was that they had gotten off course, which placed them about 150 miles east of where they should have landed. The conditions with which Parrado and fellow survivors were forced to cope for 72 days and 72 nights were unspeakably brutal. At night, temperatures plummeted to between 30 and 35 degrees below zero. Being from Uruguay, Nando and fellow teammates were dressed in shorts and T-shirts. Though Perrado had never seen snow, he was now surrounded by its frigid flakes.

When this 21-year-old with an indomitable spirit finally felt that he and another passenger could venture outside of the wrecked plane pieces to seek help, they had no idea of the insurmountable obstacles they would face. They had no way to know how endless, jagged, and forbidding climbing and navigating the peaks would be. Walking with faith, patience, and perseverance were the successfully led to help and brought that help via helicopter to those still in the plane’s fuselage.

Since this tragedy in which Nando Perrado lost his mother, sister, and other loved ones, he has been a bundle of endless energy and a wealth of time-tested wisdom.

I was able to hear Nando Parrado’s tale of survival and the miracle of his rescue by attending a Speaker’s Series sponsored annually by Robert Morris University (visit www.rmu.edu).

As I continue to reflect on the most inspirational and motivational presentation I have ever heard, I continue to believe that — despite my faith and a deeply rooted spirituality — I could never have survived such conditions. I can only say that Nando definitely walked by faith.

For more information, read “Miracle In the Andes” available in Braille from the Library of Congress and written by Nando Parrado for his father’s 90th birthday (visit www.loc.gov). ” Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors” is another book which chronicles this story of tragedy and triumph, this book also has been made into a movie with the same title.

To learn more about the public and motivational speaking honors which Nando Perrado has received, you may visit www.facebook.com, find his page and like him on Facebook.

Though I have flown during turbulence, I’ve never experienced even the possibility or threat of an impending crash. What I remember from having flown frequently during the 1970s is that I was never shown where the emergency exits were or how to position myself to prepare for a crash or unusually rough landing. Tell us in Readers Forum if you have ever been shown those life-saving measures prior to airplane travel.

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