It was August 18th, 2007.
My good friend Guðni was visiting me from Iceland and he had his pilots licence! He was a very good pilot and we had decided to spend the day flying a Cessna 172 in Squamish, BC. It was an exceptionally beautiful day! We decided to fly through the valley of the Indian Arm in order to reach our destination, a popular path to get to Squamish. On our way there, we came around a bend and saw a set of clouds in the valley. Guðni immediately decided it would be best to turn around. We decided to go into a neighbouring valley to reach Squamish, this was not a good decision. As we entered the valley, it soon became apparent that we were in trouble! It was very narrow, and at the end of the valley, the mountains escalated quickly. We had two options: either we turn around, which would be difficult in such a narrow valley; or we try and climb fast enough to get above the mountains. Guðni began to try and ascend high enough to clear the mountains, but we realized almost right away that this would not work, we were too heavy. In a second attempt, Guðni slowed the plane down to try and turn around. As he did, the plane stalled... What would come next would horrify anyone! The nose of the plane began to dip and I saw the propellors slow down and similar to a roller coaster, my stomach shot up into my chest and I held on for dear life! Guðni began pulling up on the control system to get lift, but it was too late. "Boom, Boom, Boom"! All of the sudden I could hear the wings hitting the top of the trees. Then, we crashed!
In an instant, my life had changed.
I came to about 15 minutes after the crash. To my great dismay, my friend Guðni had died. I was a wreck. I was covered in blood and gasoline. My leg had snapped in half, breaking my femur. Not only that, it was pinned underneath my seat, which I was sitting on! With the help of my friend Elliot, who was also in the plane, I was able to release my leg and get out to safety. For six hours, we sat underneath a large tree about 50 yards away, waiting for search and rescue.
It was at this moment, as I stared at the plane, I could take in what just happened. Who would have known that this moment in time would absolutely shape and change the rest of my life? What haunted me was not only that my best friend had just died, or the fact that we were uncertain of our rescue, but was the fact that my last and final thought before we crashed was one of deep regret. It was the realization I had not been a loving person and if I had died, I would not have been proud of the way I had lived my life. Simply put, I hadn't loved. I had been an angry, bitter, self-centered person. This was my last thought before coming to what I believed to be my end. How sad, I thought!
As I awoke to a second chance at life, and waited for six hours for search and rescue, I came to a deep realization that I had to change my attitude in life, and my interactions with those around me needed to be radically different than before. This is precisely what I speak to students about! I believe that life is best experienced when it is lived with an understanding that we are each on our own journey of learning to love and be loved. As I share my story of surviving a plane crash, I simply share my own journey of coming to the place where I began to believe that simple acts of love can be incredible impactful on people’s lives and therefore are supremely important.
I can confidently say that my story has an ability to grip the attention of students. I am young, I am a sponsored skateboarder, and in many ways, I am incredibly relatable to the students. I can speak their language and I have fun with them! I love to share some very embarrassing stories about accidentally wearing a speedo to a school field trip to the pool, saving my cat from almost being eaten alive by a coyote, and the time I peed my pants in grade 5! And believe me, all of these stories tie together to inspire students to love one another!
My message is simple: Love one another, for in doing so, we find our life purpose as human beings.
Below is a short clip from an Interview I did with the Berrics.com - it will give you an idea of the plane crash itself.