TODAY

TODAY   |  October 21, 2013

Plane crash survivor Hannah Luce: I still struggle with guilt

The sole survivor of a 2012 plane crash, 24-year old Hannah Luce discusses her incredible recovery and new memoir “Fields of Grace.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we have a living miracle. 24-year-old hannah is the sole survivor of a tragic plane crash beating the odds with courage, grit, and a lot of determination.

>>> may 11th , 2012 , we were headed from tulsa, oklahoma to iowa. we were incredibly excited.

>> reporter: hannah was headed to a christian youth rally organized by her father's teen mania ministries .

>> i was like we should take a picture. we never take pictures.

>> reporter: she was one of five people on board a small twin engine plane. two of her closest friends were flying with her. 27-year-old austin anderson, a former marine. and garrett, a former instructor at the university.

>> reporter: we were in the air for an hour until something went wrong. smoke began to clog up the plane. i had to block the smoke because it was burning in my eyes. we were trying to figure out how to survive. i began to realize that we may not live.

>> reporter: the plane went down in a kansas field and burst into flames. hannah was the only survivor sustaining burns over 28% of her body.

>> my legs started to catch on fire. you just see the flames and you feel the heat. how will i survive? how will i get out of this alive?

>> hannah writes about her survival and recovery in a new book fields of grace, faith, friendship, and the day i nearly lost everything.

>> nice to see you.

>> hi.

>> how are you doing?

>> i'm doing fabulous.

>> you look good.

>> thank you.

>> i met you several months ago.

>> yeah.

>> and i think you were still in a difficult time emotionally and physically. where do you stand today?

>> well, you know, i think it was all -- all thanks to the family and friends that supported me as well as the doctors. i had so much support around me that was amazing and i got off all supplements -- all the meds and went on all supplements and coming out of it.

>> do you have full memory of what happened?

>> i do.

>> so you remember the plane going down. you remember being in the plane and being trapped and you remember the fire?

>> yeah. well, you know, it was a struggle because i was caught in the fire. my feet are in the air and my hands and my body are laid over one of my great friends, garrett, you know and he had already passed and i'm struggling to get out of the fire.

>> and the original story that came out was that your friend austin the former marine actually physically got you out of the plane. turns out that wasn't actually the case but you write that it was because of him that you were able to survive. can you explain that?

>> yeah, well at the moment when i'm struggling to get out of the plane, i have to decide whether or not i wanted to live or die, you know? like that moment was real for me and it's real for a lot of people, you know and austin was, in many ways a savior to me. he helped me to survive. as soon as i decided to make the decision to really live. not just live for anything but to really, really live to make a difference, to help to make the world a better place.

>> like a lot of people in a situation like that you have gone through survivor's guilt. you were the only survivor.

>> i still go through that.

>> still worry about why you?

>> yeah, why me? why are they gone and i'm still here? you know? and yet i carey this around my neck. this is actually a shard of the plane that i had collected and i carey it around my neck to remind me of the life that i choose to live to make them proud.

>> you also write about the fact that you have scars. you have physical scars from the accident and there were times when you would get in the shower or out of the shower and feel rage about your scars.

>> yeah, i would be crying at my skin because in many ways you feel displaced. when you look in the mirror it's not you. so every morning when i would wake up in the morning i started talking to my skin maybe i can't love you today but tomorrow i'll love you a little more and i started writing on my mirror saying you will find beauty within tragedy you will get out of this. not only alive but thriving. you're a survivor and that began to be a transformative process for me.

>> you put some of this very spirit into an organization you found for women going through tragic circumstances. tell me about that.

>> not it's not just women but it's also -- right now we're focussing on syrian refugees so in november i'm taking a team of doctor that donated time. we're going to help the syrian refugees in jordan this november. it's going to be fantastic.

>> why me. you can answer the question now. because you've got a lot to do.

>> nice to see you.

>> so lovely to see you too, matt.

>> you too. stay doing well. the good is called fields of grace. up next, a live performance and a big announcement from teen music sensation cody simpson. we'll get to that but first this is