An extraordinary evening with Aron Ralston

Last night I sat knee to knee in a theatre packed to the brim with almost 800 people and listened to Aron Ralston – the inspiration for the movie 127 Hours – tell his story. Out for a “walk in the park” down a slot canyon in the Greater Canyonlands area in 2003, Aron dislodged a boulder which crushed and pinned his right hand.  After six days of entrapment, he used a cheap multipurpose tool knife blade to amputate his right hand and hike to a miraculous rescue.

Aron Ralston, Boulder, CO March 8, 2012
Aron Ralston speaking at the Boulder Theater, March 8, 2012

Aron described how it was the images of his mother, father and sister — and an unexpected vision of his yet-to-be-born (in fact, yet to be even imagined!) two year old son laughing joyously as Aron lifted him to his shoulder with arms that lacked a right hand – that pulled him from the certainty that “I wouldn’t see the dawn” to a inner knowledge that he would find a way to live.  Splashed across the trailer to the movie 127 Hours are the words, “There is no stronger force than the will to live.”  But Aron said, “I think there is something deeper – the will to love.”

Aron’s presentation last night was an act of love.  A year and a half ago, while filming 127 Hours in Salt Lake City, Aron called up the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and insisted on coming down to the office.  He wanted to talk about how he could help protect Utah’s redrock canyon country, including the landscape where his accident took place – Greater Canyonlands.

Last night Aron stood on stage and not only shared his personal story, but also described the beauty and wonder of Greater Canyonlands and asked the audience to call on President Obama to protect the area by proclaiming it a national monument.

“When you die and get you life back, you know what’s important to you,” Aron said.  “It’s not enough to go out in places like Greater Canyonlands and have fun.  You also need to give back.”

And last night became an extraordinary evening of giving back.  The 30 plus students and residents who had volunteered to help collected over 600 postcards asking President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands and took hundreds of photographs of people posing with “President Obama: Protect Greater Canyonlands” fliers.  (Click here to see these and other “Protect Greater Canyonlands” photos).  And scores of people left with packets of postcards and photo message fliers, vowing to recruit friends and family to also call on the President.

Aron Ralston (center) along with redrock activists who volunteered at the Boulder Theater event.

Aron’s story is testimony to the power of the canyon country to enrich and transform our lives. It is also a reminder that we need to “give back” to these landscapes by using our voice to call for their protection.  “President Obama can do this,” Aron concluded.  “He can proclaim Greater Canyonlands a national monument and protect it for all time. But we need to give him the courage and political support to act.  We need to make sure he hears from all the people who love and cherish the desert.”

To ask President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands, go to:

“Beyond 127 Hours: An evening with Aron Ralston to protect Greater Canyonlands” was hosted by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, CU Wild (a wilderness advocacy student group at CU Boulder) and Coloradans for Utah Wilderness at the Boulder Theatre in Boulder, CO on March 8.  Thanks is due to Aron Ralston and all these organizations for making the evening possible.