Into Thin Air

May 11th, 1997

It has been one year since the tragedy on Mount Everest occurred in 1996. During the time since the event, I have spent much time reflecting on my journey. Many questions came up when thinking of this tragedy. What went wrong? What mistakes could we have prevented to stop one’s life from being taken from them? While these questions may have some very clear answer one, I have one that required more time thinking upon. What does it mean to survive?

As one of the few survivors from that venture, I suffered from guilt knowing I was able to make it out alive unlike some of my other acquaintances. There were many hardships during that time that costed people’s lives. Due to that, I believe being able to survive is to make it out of those hardships. The fact that I was able to make it out despite the catastrophic ordeal that occurred is enough to say that I am survivor. Those who were unable to make it out alive simply were not able to survive. While they have put themselves through greats trials and tribulations and certainly tried putting forth as much effort as possible to make it out alive, they were too inexperienced and lost their lives. Being able to survive is not to put yourself through hardships and lose halfway through, it’s to completely go through the experience and come back in one piece.

One of the mishaps I gone through was the blizzard that struck in just as we started our journey. The blizzard was one of the hardest parts of our journey. Many people died because of it, but some still managed to pull through despite how dire the situation was. Here is an excerpt from the New York Post on one of the survivors from the event.

“It’s hard to know which is more harrowing and riveting, the footage or the stories told by survivors such as Beck Weathers, a man who’d suffered life-long depression and yet managed to survive and get down after becoming blinded and being left for dead. His severe frostbite cost him his nose, most of one arm, and the fingers of his other hand.”

As I said in my novel, Weathers had an undying spirit that lead to him being able to survive. He showed a lot of determination, patience and strength. He was able to wait hours for me and even when he joined the group that was lost and was left for dead in the blizzard, he still pulled through and managed to survive. He didn’t lose his way in mind and wasn’t afraid and that was the way to be more strong. This willpower lead to him surviving.

Unfortunately for some, being strong isn’t the only thing needed for survival. One man I met during this journey was Andy Harris. He was a man that always came to help people, but because of that, it lead to his death. He didn’t think about how his life was just important as other’s and it caused him to die. In an interview about the people whom died, Beck Weathers spoke about how this led to his demise.

“And he ultimately, in a truly heroic effort on his part, will give his life to try to save Doug’s. That says pretty much everything you need to know about what kind of guy he was. And he was caught up in it. He really went back and just kept cranking, trying to save him.”

He was too caught up in trying to save someone else, he was unable to survive. He didn’t make it through and while he had the willpower, it is important to not make small mistakes while making it through those hardships.

Being able to survive is to make it through hardships alive. Some damage may come through escaping danger, such as Weathers losing body parts, but without making out alive, you cannot survive. Sometimes, surviving can leave marks on a person. For example, after I made it out of the disaster, I still am affected by the disaster.
“Mortality had remained a conveniently hypothetical concept, an idea to ponder in the abstract. Sooner or later the divestiture of such a privileged innocence was inevitable, but when it finally happened the shock was magnified by the sheer superfluity of the carnage: (112)”

The event has caused me release that things may be much darker than they seem. We are not immortal, and eventually we all die. Death all comes to us but some faster than others. Despite this, what I think is important now is that I am still alive. I made it through all hardships and challenges during my journey and that’s what it means to survive.

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