Andes survivors mark 40th anniversary of crash

Associated Press Modified: October 14, 2012 at 8:01 am •  Published: October 14, 2012

After 10 days of trekking, they spotted Sergio Catalan, a livestock herder in the foothills of the Chilean Andes. The conditions were such that the pair couldn't get too close to Catalan, but from afar, they heard him say one word: "Tomorrow."

"With that (word), our suffering ended," Canessa said.

Catalan, who at the time rode his horse to the nearest town to alert rescuers, returned to meet the survivors on Saturday in a hat and poncho. He walked slowly this time with the aid of a cane and pointed at the sky when helicopters hovered over the field just as they did 40 years ago over the barren mountains.

Carlos Paez, 58, waved a small red shoe at a helicopter carrying Parrado as he did when the Chilean air force choppers rescued him and the others. Parrado gave a similar red shoe to his friends at the crash site before he left for the cordillera and guided rescuers back.

"I came back to life after having died," said Parrado, whose mom and sister died in the Andes. "It's something that very few people experience." His experience, he said scarred him but made him stronger and brought him a newfound appreciation for life.

"Since then, I have enjoyed fully, carefully but without fear. I tried to enjoy my friend, my dog, my passions, a second at a time," said Parrado, who has been a TV host, a race car driver and a motivational speaker.

Survivor Daniel Fernandez, 66, held the trophy that would have been the reward for the game to be played the day of the crash.

The ordeal "taught me that we set our own limits," Fernandez said. "If I had been told: 'I'm going to leave you in a mountain 4,000 meters high, 20 degrees Celsius below zero (-4 Fahrenheit ) in shirtsleeves, I would have said: I last 10 minutes.' Instead, I lasted 72 days."


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