There's so much death in the news that we don't really stop to appreciate the fact that humans are actually really hard to kill. Nature and man conspire to do it every day, and every day there are untold stories of people making it through via luck, training or just the power of will. Even when it seems utterly impossible.
Everyone has a Christmas horror story, whether it's a tree igniting in the living room or some chronology ghosts haunting you for being a bad person. Still, none of them hold a candle to Juliane Koepcke's Christmas in 1971, which even John McClane would insist was pretty goddamn bad.
Badass of the Week
Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.
On December 24, 1971, Juliane was with her mother and 91 other people on an airplane that got struck by lightning and exploded mid-air. The blast sent Juliane hurtling into the Peruvian jungle from 10,000 feet, while still strapped in to her seat.
She suffered a broken collarbone, a swollen eye and a nasty gash on her arm, but aside from these injuries and the trauma of surviving a goddamn plane explosion that liquefied everyone else, she was miraculously unhurt after her fall.
Hell, she still photographed well.
After surviving exclusively on holiday sweets she found in the wreckage, Juliane followed a stream toward civilization and survived using the skills her father had taught her. Wait, did he know this was going to happen? Later was he all like, "See, I told you!"
Anyway, she waded downstream for nine days. And we should point out that she did all of this nearly blind, since she somehow managed to lose her glasses in the thousands of feet between mid-air explosion and jungle floor. Juliane eventually found a canoe and paddled it to the first sign of civilization she had seen since the crash: a lumber yard.
Wings of Hope
Years later, she returned to the site of the crash to beat up the wreckage.
The next day, Juliane was airlifted by less combustible means to a hospital, where her father was waiting for her -- we assume with a stopwatch.
On July 28, 1945, a plane crashed into the Empire State Building so hard and fast that it gave the then-tallest structure on earth an exit wound. One of the engines blew a hole clean through the other side of the building and crashed through the roof of a building down the block.
Something tells us this was the work of George Bush Senior.
More than a dozen people were killed in the crash, but among the survivors was Betty Lou Oliver, elevator operator and immortal.
The impact threw Oliver from the elevator she was standing in, and the resulting fire gave her severe burns. But it was about to get much, much worse.
Above: A bad day on the job.
Rescue crews, needing to get her to the ground so she could get medical attention, put her right back in the elevator and punched the button for the ground floor. Now, anyone who's familiar with the "Do Not Use in Case of Emergency" signs plastered on every elevator already knows this was a bad idea. Sure enough, the cables were so badly damaged by the accident that they snapped almost immediately.
Betty Lou was sent into a 75-story free fall.
Due to what was either a featherweight frame or an adamantium skeleton, Ms. Oliver survived that 75-story fall -- directly after getting hit by a plane -- then returned to the job only five months later. And yes, she went right back to work in the same elevator that tried to kill her.
Way back in 1541, a French noblewoman named Marguerite de La Rocque accompanied one of her relatives on his expedition to explore the New World. During the trip, she was caught banging one of the shipmates, which is apparently a serious offense on French ships. Jean-Francois de La Rocque punished Marguerite by marooning her on the Isle of Demons in Canada's Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Blaeu Map, 1617
At the time, Newfoundland held less than a dozen people. Barely half of its current population.
In addition to Marguerite, her lover was abandoned on the island, as well as her completely innocent, presumably pissed maidservant. Without much to do on an island, Marguerite and her new boyfriend got to work nailing one another, and without the benefit of prophylactics on the island, she got pregnant.
Condoms: Because you never know when you'll end up stranded in bumfuck nowhere.
Now, while there weren't specialized OB-GYNs during that time period, it was still pretty well understood that no one should try having a baby on a deserted island. Nevertheless, she birthed a child by herself and survived. Sadly, no one else, including the baby, was as adaptable as Marguerite, and they all eventually died, leaving Marguerite on her own against the relatively unexplored Western Hemisphere.
With a huge gun, apparently.
Marguerite lived on the island for two solid years, hunting wild animals/monsters, before she was eventually rescued by fishermen. Once back home, her story made her an instant celebrity for reasons that would have probably resulted in her own reality show today.
"She's got tits? And a gun? GET ME ONE HUNDRED CAMERAS."
Yet, her story still isn't quite as improbable as ...