Life is hard. Everyone knows that. But next time you find yourself in a crisis or difficult situation and you feel like giving up, think of one person: Kechi Okwuchi.
Kechi was just 16 years old when her flight home for Christmas Break at Loyola Jesuit College ended in a fiery inferno on December 10, 2005. Twenty minutes from landing, the weather turned extreme and the pilot made an error in judgment, sending Sosoliso Airlines flight number 1145 crashing to the unlit runway, exploding on impact. Of the seven crew members and 103 passengers (61 of which were Loyola students), there were eventually only two survivors. One of them was the sole surviving student from Loyola, Kechi Okwuchi.
Though thankfully Kechi says she doesn't remember anything immediately following the crash, she was taken to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was kept in an induced coma for 5 weeks. She stayed there until September of 2007, when she was transferred to Shriner's Hospital for Children in Galveston, TX. Her mother Ijeoma and sister Zitara accompanied Kechi to the United States, where they settled in the Houston suburb of Pearland, TX.
Kechi has already endured over 75 surgeries, with more to come. With 60% of her body badly burned, her recovery has been slow and painful, yet she's always smiling. "I’ve always had this sense of confidence which I won’t deny has helped me now. My friends describe me as a really cheerful and optimistic person and I see that," Kechi stated in a recent interview. She also relies on her strong Christian faith and her tight-knit family and group of friends for strength.
Now 24 years old and a student at University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX, Kechi is looking to a bright future in her chosen field of marketing and advertising. She is also a major spokesperson for Loyola Jesuit. According to the Kechi Okwuchi Trust Facebook Page, she, "...had the rare honor of being a (remote) guest at the fundraiser recently organized by the Loyola PTA [in] (Abuja [Nigeria]). It is a huge but terribly laudable project which will entail building residential blocks of flats for the teachers at Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja in memory of my friends and schoolmates - the 60 angels that passed on December 10, 2005. The plan is to raise N500 million [about $3 million American] in order to realize the dream. I implore all who can help to contact them through me." She was able to tell her story and help with fundraising efforts by making a video that was posted on YouTube, which may be viewed on this page.
Kechi's mother, Ijeoma Okwuchi, wrote a book that tells Kechi's tragic and amazing story from a mother's point of view. It is called Refined for Rebirth and may be purchased via Amazon.com. To help Loyola Jesuit build the memorial to the 60 students who lost their lives on December 10, 2005, visit and "like" the Kechi Okwuchi Trust Facebook Page.
Next time you feel like saying, "I can't," just think of Kechi and know that you indeed can.