I was incredibly moved by the feature film Unbroken, which I saw just yesterday. Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a one-time hooligan turned Olympic runner and, ultimately, a World War II hero.
Zamperini became famous for breaking long distance running records and competing in the Olympics in 1936. But his Olympic hopes were put on hold by the outbreak of World War II. As a WWII bombardier, Zamperini’s plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and he spent 47 harrowing days adrift at sea, only to be “rescued” by the Japanese and interred in a prisoner of war camp, where he endured unending privation and torture at the hands of a sadistic camp sergeant.
As I watched the film, I was awed by Louis’ fortitude and his will to live. Interestingly, the author who brought his story to life has had a difficult uphill battle of her own. Lauren Hillenbrand, who wrote the biography on which the movie was based, suffers from a devastating illness that was once called chronic fatigue syndrome. Throughout the writing of Unbroken, Hillenbrand never left her home and struggled each day with extreme fatigue. She never met her subject Louis Zamperini before finishing the book about his life.
Both Hillenbrand and Zamperini represent an indomitable spirit of survival, one which I greatly admire. And they demonstrate the human will to live, no matter what the cost.
Recently I read a news story about a seven-year-old girl who survived the crash of a small plane in which she and her family were traveling. The only survivor of the crash, the little girl traipsed barefoot and bleeding through the woods in darkness, seeking help. What courage it must have taken for this young child, who knew her parents were dead, to fight for her survival.
These true stories have made me realize that our human will can be a powerful force in our lives. None of these three individuals had any particular physical or mental advantage over other human beings. What they possessed were the tenacity, inner strength, courage, and sheer will that helped them prevail in the most dire of circumstances.