Sean O'Keefe says every day is a bonus, after escaping a fatal plane crash in Alaska last year, which killed five of his friends.
Tonight the SU alum was back on campus. He sat down with CBS News Anchor Jeff Glor for an open conversation about the tragedy, and his second shot at life. "It's a profound gift. Something I had no right to expect after that incident. I'm trying to make the most of it everyday," he said.
O'Keefe was pinned in the wreckage, helpless and sometimes waivering on hopeless, for 18 hours. While rescue crews battled through weather and rough terrain to get to the plane. His 19-year-old son Kevin, a current SU student, was beside him. Amazingly the O'Keefes and two others survived. But 5 passengers, including former Senator Ted Stevens, didn't make it out alive.
"It was 18 hours of anticipation, real despair over losing a lot of friends who I've known for, some of them, the better part of 30 years," said O'Keefe. "It was just a jumble of emotions. And resolve, that given that my son had survived it, to stay alive and to get out of it and see another day."
Each day since O'Keefe says he's adapting to his so-called "new normal." Doctors really can't explain how the 55-year-old is alive and well. The former NASA Chief is still working, he's now the CEO of a global defense company, a husband and father of 3, and living every moment with a new sense of appreciation.