TODAY

TODAY   |  October 21, 2013

Crash survivor Hannah Luce: ‘I did what anyone would have done’

The 24-year-old lone survivor of a 2012 tragic plane crash in Kansas reflects on the recovery process in her book “Fields of Grace,” and how she wishes she could “bargain with the universe” to bring her friends back.

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

>>> last year a small plane carrying five people was on its way to a christian youth rally in iowa when suddenly it plummeted into a kansas field and burst into flames.

>> 24-year-old hannah lucci and two of her best friends were on that flight. everyone died, except hannah . the sole survivor of a tragedy that shook her to the very core.

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

>> hannah lucci was headed to a christian youth rally organized by her father's teen mania ministry.

>> i was like, oh, you know, we should take a picture. we never take pictures.

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

>> 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 was it was burning in my eyes. we're trying to figure out how to survive. i began to realize that we may not live.

>> the plane went down in a kansas field and burst into flames. hannah was the only survivor sustaining burns over 28 percent 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?

>>> we're back with more of "today." earlier we shared the story of hannah lucci who took a flight with some of her friends back in may of 2012 .

>> they were headed to a christian youth rally in iowa but their small cessna plane crashed in the kansas field and only hannah survived. now she's written a book about that fateful day and her painful road to recovery called "fields of grace."

>> hi.

>> it's great to welcome you here.

>> hi.

>> lovely to see you guys.

>> we knew what the subject matter was and then we meet you.

>> yeah.

>> and you are so not a victim. you know, this is not a pity party at all that you write about.

>> there are moments, of course, it's a harrowing story, but what do you want to ask her about, hoda?

>> i think, when i think about your recovery it had two parts. the physical recovery and emotional recovery.

>> and spiritual one.

>> uh-huh.

>> where are you on those parts?

>> well, i think i -- i have, in a lot of ways, i'm still in that transformative process.

>> right.

>> because that stuff takes time like you said. it's psychological, it's physical. but i definitely say that the worst pain out of everything is the soul pain.

>> these were your friends.

>> you feel it in your soul. i would have bargained with the universe, barringaigained with the devil himself to bring them back.

>> you had a moment where you said right now i would do it.

>> anything.

>> you grew up in a very devout home where there was a lot expected of you. your father started this teen mania ministry, well known around the world. what was going on in your mind when you were thrown from the -- you had to climb out of there and climb over the body of your friend garrett. and you had to make a decision, didn't you? am i going to live? it would be easier just to die.

>> one of my lungs had collapsed at that time. so i was caught in the fire. i was wearing my mother's gray wedges i had stolen from her closet, and they started -- they were kind of a rubbery plastic. they started melting to my feet. started melting to the airplane, the seat. and so i am like head over heels literally. my feet are on the seat and i am, you know, i am -- my head and my arms are halfway out the plane. and i am having to make this decision. you are fighting to stay alive , fighting to stay awake . you don't really feel when you are on fire, you don't feel that you are on fire.

>> you see it, though.

>> you see it and you feel the warmth.

>> the skin just melting off your --

>> it's not necessarily melting. what it does, i was wearing jeans and i'm wearing my no-sex spandex.

>> yes.

>> so that saved my life.

>> i'm looking at your skin.

>> spanx.

>> exactly!

>> the skin grafts . i am looking at you and i see a beautiful girl . when you look at your arms and you look at your body, tell me what you think and feel.

>> i was wrestling a lot because i would -- i was displaced.

>> 23% of your body.

>> it wasn't just the 30 percent of my body that was grafted but then you also have, like the 20 percent, 30 percent that they take, you know, they take part of your skin and they graft it on and so that's also a healing process . and so i have learned how to survive in this process because i had to get off the print prescriptive meds.

>> some people get stuck in their own sadness and get trapped. how are you paying it forward?

>> grief is a process. you can't compare faith, you can't compare courage. i did what everyone would have done. at the same time, austin was my saving grace because in many ways he gave me hope and courage to go on and that's why i wear this around my neck. this is from, you know it was a cold, dark night and the moon is full and there's coyotes howling and i see before me this tree, this oak tree that had been scharred. it was burned. underneath the tree is where we had crashed into. there's all these pieces of metal and i started picking them up. i made the necklaces. i'm going to give them to the families.

>> hannah , you do lots of other great things too. this book is really, really riveting. i'd like to read a book that you write in five years from now that tells us more about your journey as you go along. we've got to run, but thank you.

>> god bless you, sweetheart.