Up until a couple weeks ago, this name meant nothing to me. I had never heard of it. I couldn’t have told you why it was significant. It just meant nothing to me, and I find that such a shame.
And then the book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, was picked as our May book club pick and even though we met 2 weeks ago, I still haven’t been able to put this book down.
Louis was a punk, rascally kid who was headed for trouble until his older brother got him interested in running. He found a passion and started crushing record after record for his mile run. He was heading for the Olympics and instead ended up as a bombardier in World War II.
What followed is one of the most incredible stories of endurance, strength, will power and just raw human emotions. From surviving his plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean to surviving for 47 days adrift on a raft to enduring 2 years in a horrific Japanese POW camp… there was no part of his story that I could even wrap my head around.
My husband mentioned last night that he hasn’t seen me this obsessed with anything in while. Honestly, I can’t stop reading about him and looking for pictures. I think my infatuation with this man is centered around the fact that he is still alive today!
That’s very hard for me. As I sit here in my comfy living room, worried about end of year school parties, what I’m making for dinner and which of my many clothes I’ll wear today… Louis Zamperini, who endured all those things, is still alive! That means that all those things that happened during World War II were not that long ago. People who lived it and experienced it are still alive in the same time frame as us.
And he didn’t just survive the horrors of the POW camp. While he struggled deeply upon returning home, he found a way to cope and went on to become a Christian inspirational speaker and ran a successful center for troubled youth! He returned to some of the POW camps where he was physically beaten, emotionally abused and practically starved to death. He met some of his former captors and forgave them. He was able to turn his incomprehensible experiences into fables, “Hope has to have a reason. Faith has to have an object”. And he was finally able to run in the Olympics- running a leg of the Olympic torch relay in 1984.
I think we have an obligation to know stories like these. There are thousands of them and it saddens me greatly to think these stories will just disappear. This is not fiction. These things actually happened to people and families and we should be aware. And thankful. We should be so thankful to them. It’s not a bad thing to go to picnics and enjoy new recipes and games of badminton on Memorial Day. Louis Zamperini and thousands of other military men and women were fighting for just those things. But we should stop and remember them and thank them. They sacrificed in ways we can’t fathom.
Thank you, Mr. Zamperini. You’re pretty amazing.