Turia Pitt was only 24-years-old when she signed up to compete in a 100km-long marathon in the Kimberley.
It was 5 September, 2011, when the young mining engineer officially started her race. Several hours later, Turia was trapped in a gorge, fighting for her life in the middle of a bushfire.
Turia was incredibly lucky to survive. She suffered burns to 70% of her body; her face, neck, arms, hands and legs were all affected.
For the past two years, she has been wearing a full-body compression suit and a mask – to help smooth out the scars on her face. Turia has spent countless hours in hospital and has had 16 operations to repair.
But last night, as part of a 60 Minutes special program, Turia has removed the face mask that has become her public physical identity since the accident. Take a look:
60 Minutes showed Turia sitting in front of a mirror, still saddens and despondent about what had happened to her. But more than anything, it was a celebration of her amazing triumph of survival.
“I’m glad I’ve worn it,” Turia said. “But now, yeah, I don’t need to wear it anymore.”
It’s been a long process for Turia to come to terms with the scarring on her face. On 60 Minutes last night, she spoke of the moment in hospital when she first caught a glimpse of her burnt skin:
“You know, I’d been asking everyone, “How do I look?” And they just said “Oh, you just look a bit different, but you’ll be right.” So I just thought, “Oh, okay, so I don’t have any hair, and I’ve – I just look a bit different. And then I saw my reflection in my iPad, and I just lost it.”
“Like, I was inconsolable. And there’s nothing that they could really say. And I also felt silly for caring so much, because I’d never considered myself to be vain, you know, because I’d always had nice looks, and I never thought about it, and I thought girls who spent ages getting ready, looking in the mirror, were a bit vain. And then I realised that I was – I’m just as vain as anyone else really.”
Turia is now on a mission to become once again content with her looks, despite the painful scarring she has endured.
“When I look at photos of myself from before, I just think, you know, bloody hell, I was actually really good looking,” Turia told 60 Minutes.
“And I’m a really determined person, so I’ll try and get as much of that back as I can. Yeah, I’m not just going to accept the way things are now and say “Oh, this is me, for the rest of my life”. No way.”