In 1972 Nando Parrado traveled to Chile for an international rugby tournament. His flight never arrived at its destination -- it crashed tragically at 18,000 feet in the Andes Mountains.
The two and a half months that followed changed his life completely. His mother and younger sister passed away in the accident, and Nando made a superhuman effort surviving for 72 days and finding his way out of the Andes after an 11-day snowy marathon trek.
Today -- the 40th anniversary of his quest for rescue -- at 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, Parrado will share his story of survival and hope for the holidays for the first time with an online audience only on Huffington Post Live.
Time, a very good healer, has put a veil over my worst memories and sorrows. I now remember the crash in the Andes and our survival as though I read about it in a book. This year, this December season, marks forty years since I walked out of those mountains.
When I first returned home, just days before Christmas in 1972, I realized the Andes had affected me more than I ever thought possible. It changed my life dramatically.
My family life was destroyed when my mother and sister died in the crash. Even returning to my childhood home I had the strange experience of observing what would have happened if I actually had died. Arriving at my house three months after the crash I found that my clothes had been given away, my room taken by my older sister, my motorbike sold. There were only some photographs of me around the house.
I went to the pizza place I frequented before the accident. People were amazed to see me. They asked for autographs. I was the same person but something had changed in the way everybody saw me.
Before the crash, my mind was filled with my studies in business administration. As soon as I cam back I had to exchange my studies for every day work. Our family business had nearly been destroyed, since my father and mother worked together.
When you are young, you feel immortal. There is nothing that can modify or destroy you. Through our painful experience I learned that life is linked to death, that these are the only realities of our existence. You are born and you will die someday... in between, nobody knows.
There are some tings I have thought deeply about over the decades, my thoughts influenced by the Andes experience. Simply: family, confidence, and friendship.
All through the 72 days we spent in the mountains, there was absolutely nothing to which we could attach ourselves. Everything had lost its meaning. There was no future, no hope. Studies, work, material things. Nothing had any value.
But omnipresent in everyone was the need of family affection. Our desire to feel secure in a family and our need to feel and give the love of a family were the only things that kept us going. So now, after having experienced a human situation where our limits of physical and mental suffering were constantly reached and even exceeded, I have come to understand that family is what made us survive.
Our lives honor this fact. I am extremely happy with the simplicity of watching my daughters grow, holding my grandchild, loving my wife. This does not take away from my professional success. I have been privileged to be the CEO of six companies, but here is no business activity that I would not exchange for the moments of happiness with my family.
I have learned that the moments do not repeat themselves, but the next time I am dying I know what I will be remembering: my affection and love, not my businesses, cars, contracts, airports.
Another thing I am certain was influenced by the Andes experience was my personal confidence. I have been able to makes decisions easily in many aspects of my life and work because of something that happened in the mountains.
When I was at the top of an 18,000-foot peak with Roberto Canessa, looking at the vast scenery of snowy peaks surrounding us, we knew we were going to die. There was absolutely no way out. We then decided how we would die: We would walk towards the sun and the west. It was better than freezing at the top. This decision took us scarcely thirty seconds. Other decisions taken later in life seemed no more difficult than deciding about my own death.
Finally there is the value of friendship, our feelings of affection and love. It was deeply moving to see my teammates helping each other in ways they could not have imagined, even risking and giving their lives for each other. Friendship was a major factor in our chances to survive, and after we managed to rescue ourselves, we made our friendship with each other an important part of our lives.
Sometimes I ask myself why people need to experience extreme situations to understand the real values of life. These values are so clear and near to us, yet we rush by them looking for the "important" things. The warmth of my daughters' embrace at night when I would tuck them in bed or the quiet presence of my wife, Veronique, near me -- moments that will not be repeated -- these are the important, enduring values.
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