Kechi Okwuchi knows more than most of us about surviving. In 2005, when she was 16, she was on a plane that crash-landed in her native Nigeria. Out of more than 100 people, she was one of two who survived.
Now she’s competing on “America’s Got Talent,” where on Tuesday she brought all four judges to their feet with a powerful rendition of Katy Perry’s “By the Grace of God.”
She wept when she finished.
The song was loaded with meaning. Okwuchi now lives in Houston, where thousands are trying to survive epic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“I pray that my performance gave them something positive to see,” Okwuchi said. “I’m not even sure if people in Houston can see this, but I pray that they can … and that they feel something positive and they feel strength.”
In a pretaped interview, Okwuchi showed letters she received from the families of classmates who perished on the plane. They supported her through the more than 100 surgeries it took to keep her alive. The burns and injuries have left her body scarred.
Lying in a hospital bed, bandaged head to toe, she “was completely covered in burns, but I had a pulse … music was an escape, I sang every single day,” she told the judges during auditions.
After Tuesday’s performance, judge Mel B told Okwuchi she had an amazing, “pitch-perfect” voice, but “more importantly to me, you are a survivor … And for that, you must go through. You must. I have to see you again.”
Judge Howie Mandel, who called her a “beacon of beauty and inspiration,” pointed out the serendipity of Okwuchi now living in Houston.
“You are important,” judge Simon Cowell told her. “In these days and ages, people need people like you as an inspiration, and that’s what you’re doing.”