Plane crash survivor says faith helped keep him alive: “We prayed to Mary every night”

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This story shocked the world in 1972: a Uruguayan plane on its way to Chile crashed in the Andes Mountains with five crew members and 40 passengers on board.

It took 72 days for the passengers to be rescued. Only 16 survived in extreme conditions, which included harsh weather, disease, thirst and hunger, even to the point of resorting to eating the bodies of those who had died in order to survive.

GUSTAVO ZERBINO
Survivor

What we went through is not a major trauma. It is a very rich experience in which we learned a lot through pain, but we have nothing but gratitude and nothing to regret, and I never woke up with a nightmare or regretted anything. If it were my turn to live through the same thing tomorrow, we would do it much quicker. And maybe someone else would be saved.

When the 16 returned home, the Pope at the time, Paul VI, sent them a telegram. According to the survivors, it said that God had put man on earth to live, not to die, and that if they had not eaten that meat, it could have been considered suicide.

Gustavo Zerbino is one of the survivors of that tragedy. In 2014, he recounted how the group experienced the presence of God in that mountain range and how they prayed daily to the Virgin Mary for help.

GUSTAVO ZERBINO
Survivor

I believe in God. On the mountain, on that gigantic mountain, man is dwarfed. He is so small; everything in his mind is made relative and he contemplates the presence of God, which is very big. The God we met in the Andes was a kind God, who wanted the best for us. We asked the Virgin Mary for strength. We prayed to her every night. Every night, so that we would not fall asleep and freeze to death. We asked her for strength. We asked her for peace.

For the 50th anniversary of the crash, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the survivors. In it, he emphasized their strength and stressed that no one is saved on their own, but that it is necessary to have the support of others.

The story of Zerbino and the other survivors is one of friendship. And today, a cross stands on top of the mountain to remember those who died.

CA
TR: KG

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