The Tragic Death Of Omayra Sanchez

The death of Omayra Sanchez had a uniquely far-reaching impact that remains to this day. As reported by The New York Times, the 13-year-old girl died while stuck in a pool of muddy water in the wake of a volcano eruption. The death might have been lost to the world of natural disaster statistics had it not been for the 60-hour effort to rescue the girl and the now infamous heart-wrenching photo as she struggled to survive the crisis that would ultimately take her life.

Sanchez's hardship began after the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia. Per Rare Historical Photos, the violent flow of mud and debris made its way to the town of Armero and tore apart her home. While her father and aunt were killed, she survived but was left trapped. Despite the efforts of the rescuers, who managed to break Omayra free from the waist up, they realized she could not be removed from the volcanic puddle without breaking her legs, which sat just above her aunt's corpse.

Omayra Sanchez's positivity is a defining part of her legacy

The photo that captured Sanchez's final moments was taken by French reporter Frank Fournier and titled "The Agony of Omayra Sánchez." According to Rare Historical Photos, at points during her final hours, she cried and expressed fear before she was thrust into hallucinations.

But despite the pain she was forced to endure before her passing, Sanchez exhibited a positive outlook throughout the gut-wrenching ordeal that will forever be a part of her legacy. Amid the pain and uncertainty, she sang to a journalist, urged people to leave her and get rest, and still had the energy to be interviewed.

Fournier, whose photo won the World Press Photo of the Year for 1985, said that Omayra Sanchez faced death with "courage and dignity." Despite a backlash for the image — people perceived it as a testament to his callousness to her suffering — All That's Interesting reported that the journalist believes that his work acted as a means of immortalizing the resilient young girl's "lasting power" and connecting others to this feeling. "I was lucky that I could act as a bridge to link people with her," he said.