Motlow Instructor David Cicotello shares tale of survival, loss, and hope at TPAC Storytellers event

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Motlow Instructor David Cicotello has a different view of the world after surviving six days in a Utah slot canyon by himself. His story is one of physical and emotional pain; the former while he survived for six days in the Utah wilderness, the latter as he lives on without his brother who perished on their hiking adventure that turned bad in 2011. It is also a story of hope.

Cicotello recently told his story as a featured speaker at the Nashville Storytellers Project event held at the Tennessee Performing Arts Theater (TPAC) on Jan. 28. The Nashville Tennessean, as part of the USA Today Network, sponsored the event.

“The Nashville Storytellers event at TPAC was a special opportunity for me to join three other remarkable people who shared inspirational stories of survival,” said Cicotello. “Also, in my case, it turned out to be the first occasion in which the relationship with my brother Louis – the story within the story – became the dominant focus of my remarks in a program about my survival experience. Memories and emotions came easily for me in this case.”

Cicotello is currently writing a book to recount the survival experience, and to share the relationship he had with his brother. He is also writing for anyone who faces the questions that surface when a life-altering event occurs.

On any day, at any time, anyone could face a sudden, unexpected life-changing event that places us on a ledge: a diagnosis of a terminal disease; the loss of a job; a divorce. My survival experience – 144 hours confined in a desolate slot canyon – may be unique, that’s to say, it’s one of a kind; but it’s not any better than anyone else’s survival journey. Most of all, it’s what we do afterwards - thriving in the present
— David Cicotello

“On any day, at any time, anyone could face a sudden, unexpected life-changing event that places us on a ledge: a diagnosis of a terminal disease; the loss of a job; a divorce,” he added. “My survival experience – 144 hours confined in a desolate slot canyon – may be unique, that’s to say, it’s one of a kind; but it’s not any better than anyone else’s survival journey. Most of all, it’s what we do afterwards - thriving in the present.”

Cicotello, born and raised in Pennsylvania, has had a lifelong career in higher education as an English instructor and student services administrator, and has been at Motlow since 2015. He attended the University of Kansas and graduated with B.A and M.A. degrees in English. A lifelong hiker, he began canyoneering trips to Utah in 2000, and then technical climbing in 2006.