I would imagine there would be silence around the table, until someone gently says, "Julianne, we are telling true stories, not something we make up."
Julianne murmurs, "Yes. Oh yes. It was true."
Indeed it was.
I cannot imagine the horror of that descent. To know that you had seconds to live had to be a terror that we just can't comprehend. Her glasses were ripped from her face, and a shoe was blown off during her plummet.
How did she survive? Perhaps the jungle canopy helped break the fall. It is speculated that she fell through the sky back first with the seat helping to buffer the descent. All that we know is that she survived the slam into the jungle floor, suffering a concussion, a broken collar bone, and cuts and bruises on her face and arms.
Julianne, a high school senior studying in Peru, wanted to be a zoologist. Her parents were both scientists. Her father, Hans-Wilhelm was a biologist and her mother, Maria, was an ornithologist. Julianne had traveled to various research posts in the jungle with her parents as she grew up, so she wasn't a stranger to that environment.
After some time, grateful to be alive, she struggled out of her still buckled seat belt, and searched for the wreckage of the plane. She was searching for her mother, but she found no identifiable remains. She did find parts of the wreckage, and in the twisted metal, came across some candy which she scooped up. Then she had to make a plan.
She was in the middle of nowhere and she knew that she had to find civilization. Her knowledge of the jungle was beneficial and she knew her best chance of survival was to find a river, because people lived along rivers.
She again followed the flow of the river. Her candy had long since run out and she foraged as best she could for food. Her only choice for water was to drink from the murky river. She would travel along the bank of the river, and when the jungle became too dense she would wade down the river. For days she kept traveling girded only by her stubborn determination to find civilization. She knew that somewhere there had to be people and she refused to give up.
|Julianne, as an adult, revisits the crash scene|
Of the 92 people on LANSA Flight 508, 17 year old Julianne Koepcke was the only person to emerge from the jungle alive.
Julianne and her father moved to Germany where she completely recovered from her ordeal. She later went on to get her PhD in zoology. Julianne Diller, her married name, is now the librarian at the Bavarian State Zoological Collection in Munich.