Plane Crash Survivor, Kechi Okwuchi Highlights How the Tragic Event Was a Blessing in Disguise

Kechi Okwuchi survived the ill-fated Port Harcourt bound flight which crashed on the runway in December, 2005; killing 117 people, including her close friend who sat next to her and the famous Pastor Bimbo Odukoya.

Just as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, use them to make lemonade. Since the unfortunate incident, Kechi has gone on to greater heights as she emerged finalist in reality talent show, America’s Got Talent in 2017.

In a recent interview with PUNCH, Miss Kechi, who graduated with a First Class degree from University of Thomas Houston, Texas on May 16, 2015, opened up on how the crash affected her life and how she has been able to survive over 100 surgeries in the last 13 years.

Kechi, 29, who was 16 when the incident happened, added that though the tragedy took the best part of her teenage years, it was a blessing in disguise for her.

READ ALSO: ‘Sosoliso’ Crash Survivor Kechi Okwuchi Reaches Semi-Finals of American TV Show

On how the incident changed her life, she said:

“One important way that tragedy has changed my life is that it has afforded me the opportunity to meet many amazing people from around the world, which may never have happened if I wasn’t involved in the incident.

I wouldn’t trade anything for this amazing people I have met over this period. The incident is more like a blessing in disguise.”

On her recovery from the trauma:

“I have been relieved from the trauma, but not completely over it. The incident is something I cannot forget. Every single day is a memory for me. As long as I am happy and doing well in life, I think I would get to that point.”

On the possibility of getting more surgeries:

“The way things are right now, I am in a place where if there are more surgeries that would benefit me by improving any functions that I am having issues with, I am open to such. I have no problems with undergoing various surgeries but if I have to live my life this way, then I am ready.”

READ ALSO: See What Excited ‘Sosoliso’ Crash Survivor, Kechi Did With Her First Gig Payment

As a little girl, did you ever think you were going to get to this level in life?

“The truth is that I never thought I would get to this level. I have always loved music and singing but I never dreamt of what I had become today.

The extent of what I had always wanted to do with my voice was just to join my church choir. The truth is that, I never felt my voice was good enough to be on the television. However, everything happened suddenly and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.”

What are some of the dreams you nursed as a child?

“As a child, I always dreamt of working with the United Nations. I heard most of the people who work there studied economics, so my plan was to study economics also.

But after the plane accident, everything changed. Regardless of what has happened, I still dream of working with the UN.”

Are there people who categorize you as being physically challenged even though you only have burn scars on you?

“Yes, there are many people like that. When some people see me, they hardly believe that I’m without any sort of physical limitation. Personally, I am glad that the burns didn’t cause me a kind of disability. I didn’t break a bone or a finger. I am grateful to God for this.

I was 16 when the incident happened, so the tragedy took the best part of my teenage years. I just jumped somehow from 16 to 20 years of age.”

READ ALSO: Kechi Okwuchi, One of the Only Two Survivors of the Ill-Fated 2005 Sosoliso Plane Crash, Gets a Standing Ovation on America Idols

Can you cook Nigerian meals?

“I can make a few. My mother is here, so we get to eat them all the time.”

Do you have plans of moving to Nigeria to pursue your musical career?

“I would love to because I feel that I would do well if I were in Nigeria. I feel that I would get a lot of support and opportunities. That is not to say I don’t enjoy a lot of support here in the US.”

It’s been several years since that tragedy, would you say you have fully recovered from the trauma?

“I have been relieved from the trauma, but not completely over it. The incident is something I cannot forget. Every single day is a memory for me. As long as I am happy and doing well in life, I think I would get to that point.

I usually ask myself “do I really want to forget it” because it is the memory of the incident that drives me on in life.”

Can you ever board a local flight in Nigeria again?

“Actually, I have flown on local flights on my two visits to Nigeria after the incident. I had no reason to fear or panic.”

Are you considering marriage already?

“Not at the moment and I am not actively searching also because marriage isn’t something one should hurry into. However, if I find someone interesting, I would be happy to get engaged and marry.

I do not feel I am against time even though I am trying to catch up with a lot of things after the accident. But we can’t say what God has in plan for me.”

Do you sometimes look at your childhood pictures, see how you used to look and feel bad about the way you are now?

“I actually don’t get to look at my pictures before the accident, but when I come across them, I just smile and say “wow” to myself. I admire my slim figure in those pictures and not how my skin used to look.”

Do you still remember how the sad incident happened?

“I wasn’t conscious for the whole time but I remember that everything was normal when the plane took off and suddenly it went into turbulence. Even at that, nobody panicked because that was a normal thing on air.

But when the turbulence persisted, panic set in. I remember sitting in my chair and thinking about what was happening at that moment. I couldn’t overcome the shock of experiencing what I used to see in movies.

The last thing I remember was holding hands with my friend who sat beside me before everything went blank. It was a terrible experience but I thank God for sparing my life.”

What makes her story so touching is the fact that she was one of only two survivors on that plane.

She was a student of Loyola Jesuit College, a private boarding school in Abuja;  at the time, and she was on her way home for the holidays when the crash occurred.

Kechi was once quoted to have said:

“I remember just saying I don’t know, but I think we should pray or something, I don’t know. We actually never got a chance. That’s the last memory I have before I blacked out. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in Milpark Hospital, South Africa. To this day I don’t remember the actual impact of the crash.”

Kechi has had more than 100 surgeries, including skin grafts in the US as a result of the severe burns all over her body. And even though pins are placed in her hands for support, she has not allowed that to deter her from stretching those hands and reaching for success.

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