published Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Aron Ralston speaks to Hometown Heroes lunch


by Cliff Hightower
Aron Ralston speaks Wednesday during the American Red Cross Hometown Heroes luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Ralston was trapped for 127 hours in a canyon, and had to remove his arm to free himself.
Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Aron Ralston speaks Wednesday during the American Red Cross Hometown Heroes luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Ralston was trapped for 127 hours in a canyon, and had to remove his arm to free himself. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

HOMETOWN HEROES

The American Red Cross Hometown Heroes Luncheon honored five people Wednesday for community service:

* Good Samaritan youth: Nolan Skiles

* Hospital volunteer: Dottie Womack

* Red Cross disaster volunteer: Eva Knab

* First responder: John Robinson

* Good Samaritan adult: Vernon Mcleod

Aron Ralston knelt at the foot of the wheelchair, tears in his eyes, holding Monique Carpenter’s hand as she whispered to him.

She had been trapped for 16 hours after her car slid off the road and into a ravine 26 years ago, she told him. The accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.

“He said we’ve both been to a place nobody else knows about,” Carpenter, of Dalton, Ga., said after the American Red Cross Hometown Heroes Luncheon in Chattanooga.

Ralston, an outdoor adventurer, climber and mountaineer, shared the story of how a boulder fell on his arm and held him trapped for six days in a Utah desert canyon in April 2003.

“I realize I’m alone,” he said. “No one knew where I was.”

Then he had a dream in which he saw his future son, he said, and it gave him hope. So he broke his arm and sawed through it with a knife. He came out of the canyon and hiked six miles before finding help.

Now he wears a prosthetic arm he designed himself. He said he never tires of telling his story.

“I’m growing from it,” he said.

He wrote a book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” and inspired the movie “127 Hours,” starring James Franco.

Carpenter said she saw the film and related to his experience, so she traveled from Dalton to talk to him.

“After the movie, I said, ‘I am going to meet him one day,’” she said.

Barbara Alexander, executive director of the Chattanooga chapter of the American Red Cross, said the event raised about $100,000. She said it was the fourth year of the luncheon.

But this was one of the most inspiring, she said.

Hearing Ralston speak, she thought of her own 24-year-old son.

“It was an amazing story,” she said.

Aron Ralston speaks at Hometown Heroes luncheon
Aron Ralston, the subject of the 2010 movie "127 Hours" starring James Franco, spoke to attendees during the annual Red Cross Hometown Heroes luncheon Wednesday. Ralston shared his story of how he freed himself by amputating his own arm during a 2003 canyoneering expedition in Utah.
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