1."A family friend was rescued when his apartment building collapsed in an earthquake. He was able to tap on a metal pipe, so he played the rhythm of every song he could think of. He was rescued about 18 hours later when they heard the tapping and realized it had to be human-made, but he also says that kept him occupied and sane. I've always stored that tip in case I ever need it, but I hope I won't."
2."One time when I was 16, a burglar broke into my house and put me in a chokehold. I was slowly losing my breath until I looked down and saw my baby sister's wooden toy. I grabbed it with my feet and put it in the hand behind me, then knocked him in the face and ran out of the house to find help."
3."Not me, but my husband and a group of our friends decided to float down one of the rivers near our hometown. One guy in the group had a large, inflatable raft that they could all fit in. This is a pretty popular summer activity, and usually it's relatively safe. However, this particular spring had been much wetter than usual, resulting in a river that was higher and faster than what was typical. Now, when you're floating this river, there are very specific places where you're supposed to get in the water, float downstream, and then get out of the water. However, there was some confusion, and they got in the water where they were supposed to get out. The part of the river they ended up floating in was very fast and full of half-submerged logs. Things got out of hand quickly, and they ended up hitting a pile of these logs. They ended up thrown into the water and pinned up against a logjam."
"The water current was so strong that my husband couldn't move to pull himself out. He was mostly submerged and barely able to get a breath. Luckily, one of the guys ended up landing on top of the logjam, and he pulled my husband out. Together, they helped the rest. One of them ended up stuck under the logjam with the raft rope stuck around her neck. Thankfully, apart from some bad bruises, she was okay. Another guy ended up breaking a couple of ribs and puncturing a lung. Somehow they managed to call 911 before the water damage killed their phones, and gave search and rescue an approximate location for where they were. The guy with the punctured lung was airlifted out, but search and rescue helped the rest of them out of the water and walked them back to their cars. So lessons were learned: Just stay out of the river. I've never been so thankful for my Saturday shift at my retail job! If I hadn't had to work, I would have been with them."
4."I work as a field safari guide. One time, I really had to go to the toilet — like, it was an emergency — and when I crouched down, a male lion weighing approximately 770 pounds stood up right in front of me, face-to-face. Now, the problem wasn’t that I hadn't scanned the area before moving into the tall grass, but more that the lion was fast asleep, so basically, a flat cat on the ground, and nearly impossible for me to have spotted. Long story short, I’m still alive! Thankfully, lions don’t usually associate people with their regular prey, and I was luckily face-to-face with him, which helped me maintain eye contact."
5."I was caught in a riptide. I swam until I couldn't swim any longer. I was just about to give up and drown when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man running parallel to the shore, beckoning me. I swam in the direction he was running, and when I made it to shore, there was no man there. To this day, I'm convinced it was an angel."
6."When I was 5 years old (in 1995), my mom left my sister and me in the car while she ran into the store. Doing so was very common back then. We had the windows rolled down, and a beat-up white van pulled up right next to our car. Next thing I knew, a man’s arms were wrapped around me and he was attempting to yank me out of the window, but my curly shoelaces were stuck under the seat, so he kept tugging, and I was sobbing hysterically."
"My sister ran out of the other car door into the store, and my mom came bolting out like a marathon runner with a very loud battle scream. The man dropped me, and the car peeled out of the lot before anyone could write down the plates. Thankfully, I was not harmed, but the thought still haunts my dad. He cries when he thinks about the other little girls those men probably did get away with harming."
7."A few years ago, I was walking home alone. Suddenly, I noticed a guy following me from a distance. I kept walking, but he ran forward and got a knife out. I got this stupid instinct to punch him in the face, and while he was down, I'd run back home. I saw him chasing me until I reached my house, and then he stared at the windows for a few seconds and turned around and left. To this day, I have no idea what was wrong with that guy."
8."When I was a child, my dad took my brother and me to see a soccer game. On the drive there, a fox jumped in front of our car. My dad hit the brakes and couldn't keep the car on the road. We flipped into a field. My brother told me I was flying through the whole car. I don't remember anything. I just remember that when it stopped, we were upside down. My dad, my brother, and I crawled out of the car, which was a wreck. None of us even had one scratch. The following car saw it and called the police. My dad talked to them, and the driver just brought us home. We were all a bit shaken but otherwise completely fine."
9."I was in the wave pool of a pretty big water park. When the water was still, it was below my chest, which is usually a comfortable level for me. However, once the first wave started to surf, it quickly escalated to rise above my head, lifting my feet off the ground. I was not in a floating tube, like most people, so I got dragged underneath the water. I will never forget the moment when, looking up from underwater, I saw that the pool was jam-packed with floating tubes and there was no space to poke my head out for air. I knew the wave period would last approximately 10 minutes and that it would be difficult for the lifeguards to notice me underneath all those yellow tubes. Shortly after, I found a space and immediately reached for it and poked my head out for air while holding on to whichever tubes I could grab around me. I immediately got out and left, and I've never been able to go back to any wave pool since."
10."My family and I were celebrating a big birthday party at a 12-story club building that was bombed in a terrorist attack (see the Club el Nogal 2003 bombing in Bogotá, Colombia). I was 11 years old at the time. When the blast hit, I instinctively knew it was a bomb. The last thing I saw before the lights went out was my grandma and other relatives sitting by a glass window that shattered and pieces literally falling over them like a shower. Almost instantly, fire and smoke started to fill the floors below, so we knew we had to escape. Some of the bravest tried to escape through the main staircase, but they quickly came back, as it was destroyed. Then a staff member, whom I will always remember for his professionalism, directed us to get out through the emergency staircase in the kitchens, but it was completely filled with smoke. We were told that we needed to evacuate immediately because there were gas stoves that could explode at any time."
"Our first two attempts at getting though the kitchens were impossible — we simply could not breathe. After some desperate 30 minutes trying to calm everybody down, my grandpa asked us to soak handkerchiefs or napkins with whiskey or any other beverages we could find in the dark, put them on, and get the hell out of there. We did. While going down the stairs, we saw absolutely nothing due to the pitch-black smoke cloud. It was a leap of faith. I will always remember the heat of the fire and how everybody was completely quiet, minding their steps, and listening to the awful sound of the fire. Finally, we got out to the street, and then I could see the magnitude of the bombing — around 35 people killed, hundreds wounded, and the facade totally destroyed. Aside from minor injuries (my grandma only got scratches from the glass shower), no one from my family was hurt."
11."When I was a kid, we used to do big family vacations with all of my dads' siblings and my cousins. One year, we went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which are known for their riptides. We were all told to be careful, and of course adults were nearby, but at some point I got knocked over by a wave and found myself being pulled out to sea. I was flailing around, trying but failing to lift my head above water. Finally, I latched onto something and was able to bring myself up. It was my aunt, who had been sitting about 10 feet down the beach from me. Apparently, I scared her so much that my parents made me apologize to her, but if she hadn’t been there, I don’t know that I would have made it out, and who knows how long it would’ve taken for someone to notice!"
12."I was hit head-on at 70 mph by a wrong-way driver. I’m pretty sure the only reason I survived is that I’m short and slender. I was crushed inside the car, with the steering wheel just inches from my chest. Had it been any closer, my rib cage might have been crushed into my organs, and I wouldn’t have made it. I suffered a head injury, broke multiple bones, and almost lost my foot because of the level of damage to it. I had so many open wounds, I almost bled out while being tended to by emergency workers."
"After six months of difficult recovery and relearning to walk, with multiple metal implants, I was finally able to ease back into working out again at about eight months. It would be 18 months and a second surgery before I’d really start to feel like myself again."
13."I had decompression surgery due to a Chiari malformation, and after being home a week, I was in the ER with severe pain. I could barely move, couldn’t stand any type of light, and felt the worst I’ve ever felt. Thank god the EMT from the ambulance advocated for me not to go to triage. She demanded that I be seen right away. And the ER doctor agreed to do a spinal tap instead of sending me to a different department. I ended up having bacterial meningitis. My surgeon called in a retired infectious disease specialist because the bacteria was so rare. The specialist said he could not find any case in the world like it. It ended up being from my cat."
"I was in the hospital for a week and was completely out of it. The doctors said if we hadn't called the ambulance when we did, my boyfriend could have woken up to me dead. They used the word 'fatal' a few times throughout the week, trying to prepare my family for the worst. I feel very fortunate I am still here. It has really changed my perspective on life."
14."My uncle has almost died several times (I'm genuinely surprised he is still alive). Once, he was doing maintenance in a forest in the middle of winter, and a big tree fell on him. He lay under that tree until someone went looking for him. He spent like six hours lying there in temperatures of –4 degrees Fahrenheit. He ended up breaking a leg and was cut by the chainsaw."
Wow, that was intense. Have you ever survived a life-or-death situation? Tell us the story in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.