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I bought a return ticket to a place that changed my life

Published by Tiffany Johnson on

This time I’m taking my family with me.

I was brave.

I am brave.

I bought a return ticket to a place that changed my life and this time I’m taking my family with me.

Nearly 20 years ago, I went on the journey of a lifetime. After being in a toxic relationship, I was finally brave enough to leave. In that relationship, I not only lost my self-confidence, but I also lost my direction. I lost me, all of me. It was a steep climb to get back to really find who I was.

It was in the United Kingdom, alone, broken, no direction, no money, no way of knowing what was next. I made a life-changing decision to go on a Contiki tour. You know the ones where lots of young people go on a bus tour around Europe and visit numerous destinations. Seeing the best sights, having the best fun and making the best memories.

And I did.

And I didn’t.

In 1999, at age 21, I was swept away in the flash flood waters of the Swiss Canyoning Disaster, down the Saxtonbach Gorge. 

Some people still remember the accident, some don’t. It was, after all, a long time ago.

I remember it, I remember every second of it.

The media coverage stormed the canyon and our lives for months on end after the accident. The New York Times was among every other TV, newspaper and radio reporter.

Swiss Canyoning Disaster Rescue

21 people including guides and participants died that day. Some of them my friends, some strangers, but all of us bundled together in the soup of trauma that ultimately changed all of our lives. 

45 participants ventured on what was an adrenaline filled activity, involving sliding, abseiling and jumping down the canyon. Only that at the top of the mountain, where we were canyoning, there was a natural dam wall.  The storm that surged at the top of the mountain broke the dam wall, causing a flash flood, ultimately taking their lives and changing ours.

24 people were in the water when the wall of water hit. 21 people sat on the sidelines and watched the death and destruction that flashed before them.

Only 6 survived the treacherous waters that day.

I am one of those survivors.

I survived the turmoil of the event, but not without ramifications. I suffered from mental illness – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for many years – some tools I learnt then I still use today,  I never have been able to swim in a surf beach again. Plus my multiple injuries  – some lifelong, but through it all, I have learnt so many lessons, not only about myself but about others, and the world.

I know that through love and forgiveness we can all be the best that we can be. That we are here for a reason. That there are always reasons for what happens to us in our life – we just don’t know what the reasons are at the time – sometimes these reasons present themselves further up the track.

The accident has made me the woman I am today.

A person that I am proud to be. I hope that through my life lessons, I may be able to help others from my own experiences. Inspire others to live their best life, live their truth, find their purpose and make the change, be the change that they are capable of, as I have.

So, with the 20th Anniversary next year, memorial events taking place and services to commemorate for all those precious lives that we lost and acknowledge the pain and suffering of those who survived, and those who assisted with the rescue. It is time for me to go back. I have not been back since, finding it too hard, too much fear, too much sadness, anger, resentment, hurt, pain and suffering to bring myself to go back. My family have ridden the wave of life with me as I have navigated an incredibly twisting map and so they will be by my side. Now I have the confidence and know that I can, I am ready.

I am Brave Enough Now.

Tiffany Johnson
Tiffany Johnson

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