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The Will to Live

The earthquake disaster in Haiti is a tragedy with the deaths of over 100,000 people plus countless more injured and many more homeless.  The world has rallied, raising millions of dollars to help the poor people of Haiti to rebuild.  Out of the rubble comes the inspirational rescue of a young 7 year old boy, Kiki and his older sister, Sabrina.  Eight days after the 7.0-magnitude quake devasted Haiti on January 12, 2010 the world witnessed a smiling, Kiki raising his arms in triumph as he was rescued from his destroyed home in Port-au-Prince.  The image is one I will never forget and instantly became my feel good moment of 2010 and it will take a lot to beat.

A smiling Kiki is pulled from the rubble of his Haitian home

Throughout the years I have seen examples all over the world of ordinary people, in extraordinary circumstances, who have stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale.  Kiki’s rescue reminded me of some other inspirational examples of their will to live and of those who risked their own lives to rescue them.  I would like to share three more examples that have touched me.

Beaconsfield Gold Mine Disaster, April 2006

Todd Russell and Brant Webb emerge from the mine shaft which had trapped them 1km underground for 14 days

A mine collapse at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine located in Tasmania, Australia occurred on April 25, 2006 killing one man and trapping two more men approx 1km underground.  The world watched on for the next fortnight while rescue teams tried to reach the trapped men who were confined to a small area of space not large enough to even stand up in.  Brant Russell and Todd Webb were eventually rescued on May 9, 2006 and the first the world saw of these two brave men was when they stepped from the underground elevator, arms raised high in jubilation looking incredibly healthy and happy.  They then clocked off by punching their cards as I am sure they were keen to collect all of the overtime that was definitely due to them.  These two brave men, beat the odds and were able to tell their story to the world, including a media tour of the USA and an interview with Oprah.

Stuart Diver is rescued after 65 hours in sub zero temperatures and trapped in the rubble of his Thredbo home

Thredbo Landslide Disaster – July 1997

On Wednesday, July 30, 1997, a landslide in the NSW snowfield town of Thredbo saw the collapse of two lodges killing 18 people.  Rescuers combed through the horrific scene searching for survivors and eventually, on Saturday, August 2 they heard the faint cries of help from Thredbo Ski Instructor, Stuart Diver.  Stuart was uninjured but extremely cold, lying naked in the ruins of his apartment with the body of his beloved wife, Sally only inches away from him.  Over the next 12 hours, Australia sat glued to their televisions (myself included while I was on my honeymoon and my birthday) waiting for Mr Diver to be freed from the collapsed lodges.  When the first images of Stuart Diver were broadcast, the relief that was felt across the country was enormous not only for Mr Diver but the pride and admiration we felt for the rescue teams made us all proud.

Tony Bullimore, Round the World Yachtman, January 1997

Earlier that year, in January of 1997 the world watched as an upturned yacht, The Exide Challenger, skippered by Englishman, Tony Bullimore competing in the Vendee Globe single-handed non-stop round-the-world race, was drifting capsized in the huge seas of the Southern Ocean approx 1,500 south of Perth, Australia.  A distress beacon was the only form of communication from the stricken yacht and no one knew whether the experienced sailor was alive or dead.  The Royal Australian Airforce repeatedly flew P-3 Orion sorties to the scene in an attempt to determine the fate of Mr Bullimore while the Royal Australian Navy dispatched the HMAS Adelaide from Perth on a rescue mission which would take 5 days through mountaineous seas to reach the area of the upturned yacht.  On arrival at the scene and with French sailor, Thierry Dubois on board, who also needed rescuing when his yacht also capsized involved in the same race, the HMAS Adelaide deployed a rigid hull inflatable boat to the capsized yacht.  When the crew banged on the hull of the yacht, a very relieved Tony Bullimore swam up from within the yacht to be greeted by his Australian rescuers and to the waiting world media.

The stricket yacht, Exide Challenger, drifting in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean
Tony Bullimore minutes after being rescued from his capsized yacht by crew from the Royal Australian Navy ship, HMAS Adelaide

The will to live enabled all of these exceptional people to survive in trying circumstances.  I don’t know if I could have done the same and I hope I never get the opportunity to see if I would.

Do you remember these incredible survival stories?  What were your thoughts at the time?  Can you think of any other examples of incredible survival stories?  Let me know in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading.  Your feedback is always welcome.

Disaster Movies – It’s not the end of the world

Last week I went to see the new Roland Emmerich film, 2012….twice!  I love disaster movies.  I think the first disaster movie I ever saw was The Towering Inferno or it may have been Airport 1975.  I’m not sure but both have left a mark on me that I get a thrill out of seeing people die in a grand way.  Planes crashing, meteors smashing into earth, killer earthquakes, global warming tsunami’s.  The bigger, the better.  So it is only apt that with the release of 2012 that I give to you my top 10 list of disaster movies:

10. War of the Worlds (2005) Many of you will be thinking that any post ‘couch jumping’ film starring Tom Cruise is a disaster but under the steady direction of the master, Steven Spielberg, the retelling of 1953 H.G. Well’s dramatic alien invasion is very well done.  Tom’s character, Ray along with his reluctant kids must find a way to survive the war started by the tripod aliens.  The only downside of the film was the performance by Tim Robbins, a basement dwelling wacko!  The special effects were great with the destruction of building and bridges and people all masterfully done.  Score 6/10

9. Airport 1975 (1975)Starring Charlton Heston this film is about a commercial airliner that collides with a small plane which leaves a gaping hole in the cockpit and both pilots dead.  The control tower has to try and get a pilot on board while the head stewardess flies the plane.  Simple in plot and effects it is a gripping story of survival.  Score 6.5/10




8. The Towering Inferno (1974) – A couple of great scenes figure here for me.  One is Robert Wagner (his stunt double anyway) in his hotel room which is in the midst of the inferno. He has covered himself in a wet blanket and is trying to make the front door to raise the alarm and to rescue his mistress.  Within seconds of leaving the bathroom he is caught up in the blaze and eventually dies.  What makes this scene fantastic is that the camera is located on the outside of the room showing the full length of the room and it doesn’t change shot during his impossible dash to safety and is shown in slow motion.  Amazing scene.  Score 7/10.

7. Deep Impact (1998) – When this and Armageddon came out in the same year it really was a box office battle akin to two meteors crashing into each other.  Mimi Leder’s film lacked star power (compared with Armageddon) with a still young Elijah Wood starring as the high school student who discovered the deadly rock hurtling towards earth and an impressive Morgan Freeman as the US President (a full decade earlier than Barrack Obama).  It had some great scenes of destruction including a giant tsunami which took out the east coast of America (and Tea Leoni).  The ending was good with Robert Duvall and team sacrificing themselves in a kamakazi move flying their shuttle into the approaching meteor and triggering the nuclear explosion needed.  Score 7/10

6. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – In an era of disaster movies in the early 70’s this story of a ship that is capsized by a freak wave was ground breaking in its special effects.  With a young Gene Hackman leading a small group of survivors that includes Ernest Borgnine from the now bottom of the ship to the top for a chance at rescue is gripping in suspense.  The 2006 remake “Poseidon” starring Kurt Russell had a better capsizing sequence but lacked the emotional connection as in the original.  Score – 7.5/10

5. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Directed by Roland Emmerich and the first real film to deal with climate change saw Dennis Quaid trying to reach his stranded son (Jake Gyllenhaal) in a flooded then snowed in New York City (the epicentre of all world disasters).  Dramatic twisters tear apart Los Angeles earlier in the film and when a TV reporter gets blown away by a billboard then you know that no life is sacred.   Score 7.5/10

4.   Titanic (1997) – James Cameron’s epic love story with the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ ship, Titanic serving as the back drop.  The first half of this film does not qualify as a disaster film due to the ensuing courtship of Jack and Rose but the second half delivers ‘disaster’ in bucket loads.  James Cameron’s Titanic set was unbelievably accurate down to the crockery and detail of the grand stairways banisters and the crews uniforms.  When the doomed ship strikes the iceberg that we all know will sink her, it is not a question of if the ship will sink, but how it sinks.  Starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet as doomed lovers Jack and Rose the ship slowly sinks beneath the icy waters of the north Atlantic in spectacular special effects.  At over 3 hours long this movie is an epic and one of the great disaster movies of all time.  Score 8/10

3. 2012 (2009) – Another Roland Emmerich film based on the ancients Mayan’s belief that the world will end when the Mayan calendar ends its current cycle on December 21, 2012.  With Danny Glover (another black president) telling the world leaders that the world is going to end it doesn’t take long for the action to really start.  Starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet as divorced parents of 2 kids, they are soon racing to escape catastrophic L.A. earthquakes.  It was also great to see New York spared from any onscreen disaster (even though we know it cops it). A great cameo by Woody Harrelson as the front row end of the world radio announcer this film has the best destruction sequences I have ever seen.  At over 2.5 hours long buckle in for a thrill ride I don’t think we will see again for a long time.  Score 8.5/10

2. Independence Day (1996) – Perhaps the reinvention of the epic disaster movie was delivered through this Roland Emmerich vehicle when aliens conduct a coordinated attack on Earth’s major cities.  An all star cast led superbly by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.  New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. are all pulverised with the destruction of the White House, particularly blown up in amazing special effects.  One of my favourite parts of the movie is the speech delivered by the American President played by Bill Pullman drawing on the inspiration of the American holiday, Independence Day.  Here’s the closing parts to this speech.  “…once again, you will be fighting for your freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression or persecution, but from annihilation.  We are fighting for our right to live…to exist, and should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday but as the day when the world declared in one voice, we will not go quietly into the night, we will not vanish without a fight.  We’re gonna live on, we’re gonna survive.  Today we celebrate our Independence Day.” Ok, I just typed this speech out from memory, I love it that much.  Score 9/10

1. Armageddon (1998) – The big brother to Deep Impact sees a meteor the size of Texas heading towards Earth and it is up to one man and his team of red neck deep core drillers to save the world. Enter Bruce Willis and an all star cast including Owen Wilson, Ben Affleck and Michael Clark Duncan along with Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi.  Together they fly two shuttles to the meteor and they have to drill 800ft to drop in a nuclear bomb to blow it up from the inside out.  New York is destroyed early in the film by meteor showers the size of refrigerators and Volkswagens’ and it isn’t long before parts of Paris and Shanghai are also destroyed.  Director, Michael Bay uses his signature slow panning shots in a lot of his movies and Armageddon is no different.  With a great script and a colossal team of actors, this film was the big hit of 1998.   Score 9.5/10

So that is my top 10.  Some honourable mentions that didn’t make the list include The Perfect Storm, Dante’s Peak, Volcano, Daylight, I am Legend and Knowing.  None of these movies are Gone with the Wind or Citizen Cane and you know what?  I don’t want them to be.  Yes they are all very far fatched and that is what I like about them.  It is an escape from reality.  If I want to see reality then I will just stay at home.  So please keep the epic disaster movie coming.

Do you agree with my list?  What would add to the list?  Would you change any of my scores?  What will the next disaster movie be about?  Let me know below.