Tillie Tooter Still Makes South Florida Smile

Octogenarian's survival story still has people talking

120909 tooter
NBCMiami.com
Say the name Tillie Tooter to any longtime South Florida resident, and you'll instantly get a smile.
 
The 93-year-old woman made national headlines after she mysteriously disappeared in August of 2000 while on her way to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. 
 
For three days, there was a frantic search for the missing granny, and just as it was beginning to look grim a teenage boy found her in the unlikeliest of places.
 
The feisty woman was inside her mangled Toyota Tercel, in a swamp 40-feet below an elevated highway, and alive! Turns out a driver bumped her car off the highway, and left her to die. 
 
Anyone else would've freaked out - but after having lived through the Depression and losing a husband to the war, Tooter wasn't about to give up. She survived on raindrops she collected with her steering wheel cover, and the random candy she found in her purse (as grannies tend to have).
 
After she was hoisted from her car and treated at the hospital, she addressed the media with the same kind of determination that saved her and warmed all of our hearts.
 
"This is the way my whole body looks -- from bites, I'm itching all over. I'm black and blue, but I don't care. I'm here," she said in a news conference shortly after she was found.
 
Despite her strong exterior, there was kindness in her heart for the man who caused her accident, and now nearly 10 years later she said she's made her peace with him.
 
"I forgave him," she told NBC's Kerry Sanders on The Today Show today, "I forgave him."
 
Tooter doesn't quite understand all the fuss over her survival story after all these years.
 
"Me, an ordinary, everyday house frau," she said. "I'm just an ordinary person."
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