Used Toyota models in New Jersey could start attracting more attention after Wednesday’s human interest story on the Today Show.
On August 12, 2000, Tillie Tooter, now age 93, was on her way to Fort Lauderdale airport to pick up her granddaughter when she was rear-ended, sailing her Toyota Tercel 40 feet down an embankment into a nearby mangrove swamp.
Tooter spent the next 72 hours as a castaway, trapped in her car, praying to be found before the elements took their toll on her 83-year-old body.
The octogenarian survived on food rations that consisted of a stick of gum, a cough drop and a piece of peppermint candy. She used a pair of socks to absorb rainwater and would draw out the moisture to remain hydrated.
After spending nearly three days in the snake-infested swamp, Tooter felt resigned to her fate. “I made my peace with God,” she recalled on the show. “I felt repentant for anything I may have done to hurt anybody, and glad for the things that I did that were good.”
Tooter’s nightmare finally came to an end when a local teenager, who she affectionately calls “my angel,” spotted her car while he walked along the highway. She was soon rescued by paramedics and was back on her feet in just a few days.
When a friend was asked why Tooter’s story is still being told nearly a decade after it occurred, she responded with a question of her own.
“How many Tillie Tooter’s have come along in the last nine years?” she asked. “She’s terrific; she’s one of a kind.”
As for Tooter, she says the experience hasn’t changed her a bit. The Brooklyn native was raised to handle the most menacing of circumstances.
Tooter began working at the age of 13 as her family struggled through the Great Depression. She also raised a four-generation family on her own after her husband passed away during the D-Day invasion in 1944.
She now spends her time traveling around the south Florida area, speaking at retirement homes to inspire people to live life to the fullest.
“Every minute counts,” she told WPLG Local News in Miami. “Take whatever you can out of this life. Every bit of joy and every bit of pleasure and give as much as you can.”
Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that there were approximately 246,000 car crashes in 2000 resulting in nearly 232,000 injuries.
Tillie Tooter’s harrowing ordeal could benefit sales of used Toyota models in New Jersey