The first thing most people notice when they meet Kechi Okwuchi is her scars.
Okwuchi is just one of two survivors of the devastating Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 plane crash on December 10, 2005, that killed more than one hundred people. Kechi was just sixteen years old when the crash happened.
"It was a moment that was hard to reconcile with reality because it was so unexpected. I felt like I was literally in a movie," said Okwuchi. "My last memory in that aircraft is holding on to my friend's hand. We both looked at each other and held hands. We were gonna pray, but the next memory is just this metal, scraping, jarring sound inside my brain and then just darkness."
Five weeks later, Kechi woke up from a coma and was lying in a hospital bed in South Africa. She had survived but suffered third-degree burns on over 65 percent of her body.
"Everything from the top of my head to the soles of my feet burned, except for my torso, "Okwuchi explains. "The doctor that first saw me didn't expect me to be there when he returned three weeks later, but I was."
That was the beginning of her journey as a burn survivor and the start of her new life. Kechi spent the next seven months in hospital in South Africa, healing from her burns.
"I didn't find out the truth about the accident until about four months had passed," said Kechi. "That was because they had to make sure I was emotionally and psychologically balanced enough to hear the truth about everything and survive that news."
Kechi says her faith gave her what she desperately needed to get through this difficult time.
"I think that learning about God and holding onto him was something that helped me grasp and hang onto the aspects of me that meant the most," said Kechi.
Kechi first shared her story in 2017, when she auditioned as a vocalist on America’s Got Talent. Viewers were stunned by her voice and were inspired by her story as a plane crash survivor.
She is now sharing her story with the world in her new book, More Than My Scars: The Power of Perseverance, Unrelenting Faith, and Deciding What Defines You.
More Than My Scars is Kechi’s raw, unfiltered story of suffering and hope, pain and grace, chaos and calm. In the book, she shares everything from growing up in Nigeria to life after the crash. Since gaining international recognition on AGT, Kechi has continued to sing and perform.
Kechi says her strong sense of identity is rooted in seeing herself the way God sees her. She says it has allowed her to live authentically in a world that constantly seeks to define us by its ever-changing standards.
“People tell me that they’d never have been able to handle the burden of my circumstances the way that I did, and maybe that’s true. But that does not mean I am stronger or more enduring than any other human being,” Kechi explains. “This was simply my specific burden to bear, and I believe that when God made us, He equipped each of us with our unique brand of strength that allows us to handle the individual burdens life will unfailingly throw at us.”
Kechi hopes her story will inspire people to love and accept themselves as they are and confidently present their true selves to the world.
Today on Connections, Kechi shares her story with us.