Louie Zamperini just died. He was 97 years old.
Soon we will all know his name because a film based on his life will be released at the end of this year. (With none other than Angelina
Pitt Jolie directing it). But for us Laura Hillenbrand fans, Louie’s name has been etched in our minds for some time.
And I can’t think of a better week for his candle to go out.
Unbroken was the second book that Hillenbrand released. The first was Seabiscuit.
Her books are few. But they are mighty.
So mighty that when I got my book contract to write Finding Faith in the Dark, my editor said to me “There is one author you need to read before you start writing.” You can guess her name. He wanted me to read Unbroken so I would learn the fine art of telling a story. The fact that my husband, who is not a reader, got up at 5 am every day to read her book should tell you that she is indeed a master of her craft.
But some of it was the material she was given in Louie’s life.
Each of us is given one life, and we do our best to make it memorable. Louie Zamperini lived three lives, and each chapter was nothing short of heroic.
Raised by Italian immigrants, at 19 years old, Louie was the youngest American runner in the 1936 Olympics, held in Germany. He was called “speedy” by Adolph Hitler, who asked to meet him after the race.
Zamperini was a prime candidate for stardom in the 1940 Olympic Games. The games were cancelled as World War 2 broke out, so Louie enlisted as a pilot instead.
His plane was shot down in a matter of months, but Louie survived. He was stranded on a raft in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Battling shark attacks, heat stroke and starvation, Louie was finally rescued.
By the Japanese.
From that point on, Louie survived the unsurvivable. From a masochistic prison guard who regularly beat him just short of death, to weeks spent in starvation and isolation, Louie somehow outlived all of his friends. He was reported “killed in action” to his wife and family.
Eventually (and shockingly) he made his way home.
After a rough transition into normal life, Louie had a brush with Billy Graham, and lived his third chapter as a person of faith. One suspects by looking at his life that God held him long before that.
Universal Studios released this statement about Zamperini, shortly after his death:
“Confronting challenges that would cause most of us to surrender, Louie persevered and prevailed; and he spent the better part of his life sharing the message that you could do the same. His example of grace, dignity and resilience inspired all of us lucky enough to know him, and the millions who got to know him from the pages of Laura’s book.”
For those who have suffered and feel forgotten, Louie’s life is an example of what God can do when we persevere in our faith. His story inspired me as I wrote about others who suffered and persevered in my upcoming book.
So thank you Louie, for a life well lived. Our country was blessed to have you in it.
And your life helped make our country what it is.
For more info on my upcoming book, Finding Faith in the Dark, check out my author page: http://www.facebook.com/LauriePolichShort
To view a 3 minute video interview on the book, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKxS5LZ2A10
I loved your piece on Louie Zamperini. I had the rare opportunity to meet him when he spoke @Talbot Seminary when I was a student there. What a powerful, yet very gracious man. He was a Man that knew his life had been spared for greater things and he spent the third chapter of his unique journey sharing about God’s redeeming power and how he was a saved Man following God’s instruction. There were 2 people I remember to this day that spoke at Talbot’s Chapel….. (1) Ray Stedman (2) Louie Zamperini. I am inspired by both of these great saints and hope in my lifetime I could continue to use them both as a model for Ministry. Great Job Laurie … You made him (Louie) come alive before my eyes. Thanks for your thoughtful / concise words… You definitely have a gift! Hope Life is GREAT for you !! Joel
so great to hear from you. I SO hope the future brings us together so you can meet Jere and I can see you and Debbie!:) Yes, Louie Zamperini is a true inspiration.
Hope you’ll get my book! Maybe I could come down sometime and speak at your church…