Distinguished lecture: A story of survival

Aron Ralston answering questions in a post lecture panel interview.
Ralston answering questions during an on stage panel interview.
Ralston answering questions during an on stage panel interview.

“It’s not just my story; it’s all of our story.”

These are just a few of the words that Aron Ralston used to describe the experience that changed his life.

Ralston, the subject of the Oscar nominated film 127 Hours and the author of the book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, spoke to an audience of community members and Amarillo College students, Tuesday night at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.

The audience members were filled with tears during the duration of the lecture, in which he dramatically and genuinely told his entire story.

Ralston‘s story of courage and survival is known around the world, “I’m the man who cut his arm off; I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down,” Ralston jokingly told the audience.

In 2003, hiking alone in Blue John Canyon, Utah, Ralston encountered a boulder that would forever change his life.

While descending a crevice in the Canyon, the boulder dislodged and crushed Ralston’s right arm, pinning his arm to the canyon wall and leaving him trapped and alone in the canyon with little water and food, and even worse, no one had any clue where he was.

After being trapped for six days with no sign of help, Ralston made the decision to cut his right arm off in order to be released from what would have been a lonely grave. No sleep, no water and his enormous open wound only added to the difficulty of his getting out of the canyon alive.

His truck was parked seven miles away.

As Ralston was walking through the vast canyon trying to get help, he encountered a family out hiking. They gave him water, and as they were trying to figure out the best way to take care of him, a life-saving sight appeared above them.

A helicopter that was out searching the area for him came just in time. Ralston ran to the helicopter, and the canyon faded in the distance.

Ralston said that when he got to the hospital, medical personnel said he would have had only an hour of life left. He described the event as miraculous. “If I would have come through an hour too late or an hour too early, I would have missed them,” he said.

The inspiring story is why Ralston was the 2013 AC distinguished lecturer. He was chosen to be the speaker by the Student Government Association, and proceeds from ticket sales went to the SGA scholarship fund.

In an interview before his lecture, he explained how he adjusted to life with one hand. “It was like being reborn,” said Ralston, who was righthanded before the amputation.

When asked what it was like to relive what happened to him on the movie set, he said it was surreal and emotional for him, especially since everything was replicated to look as close to the actual thing as the filmmakers could make it.

Ralston delivers lectures around the country. “It’s a privilege; it’s a blessing that I get to do this,” he said. “To help give that little spark to someone who needs it when they’re dealing with loss, trauma, grief, illness, divorce, I mean it’s like all the suffering that we all go through in our lives and also to see that that can mean something, that we can make it into something that might be a gift.”

Ralston described what happened to him as the best experience he has ever had.

“As much as it was part of my journey and very much for me, I also see how it became much more meaningful than just for me,” he said. “It goes out and it touches people, and that’s how I know that it wasn’t just for me, it really is for everyone.

“We all need that sense of encouragement that comes from knowing that, ‘Oh, look at what this person did. I might be capable of that, too.’ We all need that reinforcement from time to time when we encounter our adversities – I call them our boulders – that these things are going to come, they’re going to happen in life and it’s really helpful to have a few examples out there that we can hold onto.”

The words of Ralston’s speech will ring on in the hearts of those who listened with tear-filled eyes to his astonishing and miraculous story.

“We need that inspiration, that reminder of what were capable of,” Ralston said.

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