SHREVEPORT, LA -- Beck Weathers, M.D., survivor of the deadliest day in the history of Mt. Everest, will lecture on his memoir of hope, "Miracle on Everest," Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Centenary College Gold Dome.
The program is free and open to the public as a community service of the Centenary Convocations Committee. It will include an introduction by Centenary alumnus Joby Ogwyn of Shreveport, who will attempt Everest along with a British expedition later this spring.
Weathers was among some 30 climbers on Mt. Everest on May 10, 1996, when a sudden blizzard struck. In the ensuing hours, eight people would die, including three professional guides. It was the worst one-day loss of life in the history of the Earth's highest mountain.
Twice left for dead by rescue teams, Weathers miraculously emerged 16 hours later from a hypothermic coma and reached the mountain's uppermost base camp on his own.
After enduring another stormy night on the mountain -- a night he was not expected to survive -- he managed to descend, with help, to Camp 1. Between Camp 1 and the base of the mountain lay the Khambu Icefall, an enormous glacier of mile-deep crevasses and 12-story-high ice blocks. Too weakened by his injuries to get over the icefall, Weathers lay stranded at 22,000 feet.
Without knowing that it had never been done before, Weathers's wife arranged for a helicopter to rescue him. It was an extremely dangerous operation because helicopters can lose the ability to lift at 20,000 feet.
Risking his own life to save Weathers, a Nepalese army pilot flew his helicopter over the icefall. At Weather's insistence, a climber who was in worse condition than Weathers was flown off first. It was the second-highest helicopter rescue in history.
Of his incredible story, Weathers says, "If an ordinary person was able to survive these experiences and come out not just alive, but improved, so can anyone Inside each of us is a well of strength that you could call upon if you're only willing to reach inside and get it." His survival story is one of successful human struggle against the forces of nature, the surmounting of great physical and psychological challenges, and a triumph of the human spirit.
Unlike the eight climbers who perished. Weathers was given a second chance to live. His body bears permanent scars of his ordeal. He lost his right hand and the fingers of his left hand to frostbite. He has had eight major operations and several minor ones. He now does his job with modified equipment and an assistant's help. Now 52, he is a partner in Medical City Pathologists in Dallas.
His positive attitude has inspired many, including his expedition mate, Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, a best-selling book about the Everest disaster. Says Krakauer: "Beck is 100 percent optimist. Time to move beyond it, that's Beck, the same qualities that allowed him to survive. I'm in awe of it, and envy it."
Driven by a sense of survivor's obligation, Weathers is now inspiring audiences with the miracle of his survival. With his words, he takes his listeners back to Everest with him, and in doing so, he gives them a life-changing experience of their own.
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