Book cover

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
by Piers Paul Read

I picked this book up while on vacation in Montevideo, Uruguay. Some of you may remember it or have heard about it.  Most people know that this was the tragedy in which the survivors had to eat those that died in the plane crash to stay alive. This book is an inspiring story of how sixteen young men survived 72 infernal days under the worst imaginable conditions including temperatures of -22 degrees, high altitude of about 12,000 feet, avalanches, neither appropriate clothing nor food.  It is a tale of not only how they were forced to make a very tough and controversial decision (for example, to use the bodies of their dead mates as food else face death, as there were no other available food sources) but also a story of teamwork.

I was entranced by how they helped the weak, struggled between optimistic and pessimistic thinking, and was brought to tears with how one father, also known as the crazy one for never giving up hope and just kept looking for his son. But his crazy optimism was rewarded with his son being one of the survivors.  Alive reminded me of the importance of both optimism and pessimism.  I tend to be more of a pessimist while my husband counterbalances me by being an optimist.  Too much optimism such as one of the survivors wanted to start hiking to find help in the deep snow was tempered by pessimists who said that the hike was too deadly and they needed to wait until the snow started to melt saved their lives.

I also recommend donating or going to the Museo Andes 1972 museum about the plane crash in the Andes, 1972.  I met the director, Jorg P. A. Thomsen and his enthusiasm for keeping this small private museum alive for future generations is infectious!  Jorg also organizes team building events which includes having members of the survivors speak and lead events around the world.  I believe this could be energizing for some groups and companies who want to create or build a stronger team oriented climate.  Check it out and like them on their facebook page!



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