The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Lost for 17 days in a Hawaiian jungle, all alone in only a tank top and capri yoga pans, I’m not sure what I would do. Would I work past my fractured leg, blistered wounds and terror to survive? Would I eat mystery fruit and moths and sleep in the mud or a wild boar’s den? Would I do the things Amanda Eller did, or would I go crazy after two weeks and throw my emaciated body into a ravine?

A less plausible scenario for me would be doing what Nebraska farmer Kurt Kaser did. Having gotten his leg caught in a farm machine’s rotating steel blade (foot already gone), would I have had the guts to take out my pocketknife and cut the leg off? Would I have had the brute strength to then crawl about 200 feet to a phone to call for help? Or would I have stayed there alone on that day, screaming for help as I bled to death?

Both stories fascinate because they center on regular people who were not out looking for adventure. A 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor, Eller thought she would be taking a short walk on a trail in Maui’s Makawao Forest Reserve, a path she had taken before. She didn’t even bother to take her bottle of water. Kaser, 63, was just moving grain between bins on his farm outside the town of Pender.

Kaser is someone to look up to for advice. His lesson, he said, was, “Take time and think — and don’t get in such a hurry.” That’s something we might consider the next time we rush absent-mindedly down a perilous flight of stairs.

But the bigger lesson from Kaser is not the easily learned one: the importance of staying calm in the face of catastrophe and carefully doing what must be done. “He was his own 911, his own pre-hospital, his own surgeon,” a surgeon at the Bryan Trauma Center in Lincoln said about Kaser. “He saved his own life,” he added, “and he made it very easy for us.” All the doctors had to do, really, was clean up the amputation.

Well, everyone is being modest here.

There are other lessons. Stay focused on the present. On this, Eller’s yoga practice must have helped. She later called her trial a “spiritual journey” to stay alive.

A few other practical pointers: Don’t go out alone without your cellphone. Both Eller and Kaser did that. Also, it helps to maintain physical strength. Eller was obviously in good shape through exercise, and Kaser through farm work.

As we’ve seen, Kaser’s feat of self-preservation was basically a one-man effort. Eller, on the other hand, survived not only through her own perseverance but also through that of her rescuers. Amazingly, they were volunteers.

The Maui fire rescue squad had stopped the search upon reaching its 72-hour limit on missing-person work — although it helped support the volunteers who took over. (One would be hard-pressed to blame anyone who stopped looking after more than a week.)

Even the experienced search-team members faced dangers in this very difficult terrain. They need machetes to cut through the dense forest. A wild boar attacked at least one of them. But the army of volunteers kept looking.

Recognizing that her happy ending was a group effort, Eller said, “This was all about us coming together for a greater purpose of community and love, and appreciation for life.”

Needless to say, she came from a very different cultural landscape than the Nebraska farmer. But both worlds made people strong in body and determination. Their stories must lead many of us must ask, Could we survive as they did?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

New Poll Reveals Problems For Trump--And His Party

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump Testifying To January ^ Committee Is Vital

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is the focus of a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}