USF graduate's journey an inspiring story - WFLA News Channel 8

USF graduate's journey an inspiring story

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Anne Marie Fanning speaks on her cell phone during Saturday's graduation ceremony at USF. Anne Marie Fanning speaks on her cell phone during Saturday's graduation ceremony at USF.
Anne Marie poses with the HCFR crew that responded to her crash last year. Anne Marie poses with the HCFR crew that responded to her crash last year.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - Her story is one of determination, survival and good old-fashioned grit.

Anne Marie Fanning came face to face with death - and survived.

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In fact, if you want to know what strength looks like, just look into this young woman's eyes. She is a true testament to bravery and what she jokingly, with a wide grin, calls "stubbornness."

Anne Marie is alive to tell her story when technically she shouldn't even be here.

It was last summer when the bright student was on her way to her parents' house when a man ran a stop sign and his Sports Utility Vehicle landed on top of her car. Anne Marie was trapped as gas began to seep inside, engulfing the vehicle in flames.

A witness called 9-1-1 and frantic pleas were heard - begging her help. She's "trapped inside," a man cried out to a dispatcher.

When first responders arrived, it took six fire extinguishers and a handful of first responders to put out the flames.

But, the trauma was far from over for Anne Marie. It's truly remarkable she survived. She suffered from bleeding on the brain, skull fractures, broken ribs, broken collar bones and a broken ankle. Her spleen had to be removed, along with stitches to her liver and kidneys.

There's an inspiring silver lining to this story as Anne Marie is now achieving her dream.

On Saturday she graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in accounting.

“I'm excited, it hasn't hit me yet,” Anne Marie told News Channel 8 following Saturday's graduation ceremony in Tampa. “It's kind of surreal.”

She proudly walked across the stage in her cap and gown, thrilled to be there and thrilled to be alive.

"You pick yourself up, you move forward and you go with life because it goes on,” she said. “You've got to move with it.”

And by her side and smiling too, the proud faces of the men and women who came to her rescue on that fateful night.

A number of first responders from Hillsborough County Fire & Rescue joined her family to cheer her on at the graduation.

“In my opinion, she's the hero in all this,” said HCFR Lt. Casie Prichard, “I'm happy we were here to watch this. It's hard to believe it's been a year. Feels like yesterday we were there trying to save her life. We are so proud of her."

After more than a year of surgeries and physical therapy, Anne Marie says she never gave up her fight. In fact, if anything, she says she forced herself to work harder.

“It was a lot of work, kicked myself and pushed myself probably more than I should have,” she explained. “My stubbornness helped me and pushed me to graduate and to go to school after [the accident]. I am proud it's finally happening.”

Anne Marie plans on continuing her education and has hopes of someday becoming an accountant.

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