From a window seat in a back row, the teenager watched a bolt of lightning strike the plane’s right wing. She remembers the aircraft nose-diving and her mother saying, evenly, “Now it’s all over.” She remembers people weeping and screaming. And she remembers the thundering silence that followed. The aircraft had broken apart, separating her from everyone else onboard. “The next thing I knew, I was no longer inside the cabin,” Dr. Diller said. “I was outside, in the open air. I hadn’t left the plane; the plane had left me.”
As she plunged, the three-seat bench into which she was belted spun like the winged seed of a maple tree toward the jungle canopy. “From above, the treetops resembled heads of broccoli,” Dr. Diller recalled. She then blacked out, only to regain consciousness — alone, under the bench, in a torn minidress — on Christmas morning. She had fallen some 10,000 feet, nearly two miles. Her row of seats is thought to have landed in dense foliage, cushioning the impact. Juliane was the sole survivor of the crash.
Miraculously, her injuries were relatively minor: a broken collarbone, a sprained knee and gashes on her right shoulder and left calf, one eye swollen shut and her field of vision in the other narrowed to a slit. Most unbearable among the discomforts was the disappearance of her eyeglasses — she was nearsighted — and one of her open-back sandals. “I lay there, almost like an embryo for the rest of the day and a whole night, until the next morning,” she wrote in her memoir, “When I Fell From the Sky,” published in Germany in 2011. “I am completely soaked, covered with mud and dirt, for it must have been pouring rain for a day and a night.”
In 1971, Juliane Diller fell 10,000 feet into the Amazonian forest: "The jungle is as much a part of me as my love for my husband, the music of the people who live along the Amazon and its tributaries, and the scars that remain from the plane crash.” https://t.co/TCzcQWe0WY
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) June 19, 2021