Hannah Klamecki, Willowbrook teen, honored after surviving alone in woods for 2 days in 2007

VILLA PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Everyone will know Hannah Klamecki is truly a survivor as Willowbrook High School honored the graduating senior Friday morning.

Hannah received the school's Warrior Award, celebrating the strength she has shown by overcoming a life-changing tragedy.

"She simply leads by example," said Willowbrook High School Principal Dan Krause.

When she was just 5 years old, Hannah went missing while boating along the Kankakee River with her grandfather. During the outing, he accidentally drowned.

"He got to spend the last moments of his life with someone that he loved the most," Hannah's father, Mike Klamecki, said.

With her grandfather gone, Hannah survived alone in the woods for two and a half days.

"It was absolutely terrifying. Even now, even all these years later, I still wake up in a cold sweat about it," she said, adding that she still has flashbacks.

Thirsty, hungry, scratched up and bug-bitten, Hannah was miraculously found alive and unharmed.

"It's like a pinnacle for us, like a culmination," said Carol Klamecki, Hannah's mother. "Not many people may know or remember what she went through when she was 5."

But Jeff Hinkens does. He's one of the divers who helped to rescue Hannah all those years ago.

"Her perseverance and determination is what got her here," the veteran first responder said. "She found us. We didn't find her. She found us."

Now as she walks across the stage to accept her diploma, she and her family, along with the community, celebrated the strength of the human spirit.

"Hopefully, I can inspire some people through my hardship, showing them that this traumatizing experience was not something that held me down," Hannah said. "It was something that made me stronger."

"It's so much a part of who she is. The identity of our family. And this is just an opportunity to, like, celebration Hannah and the miracle God is, and her grandfather, and how he sacrifice for her. How we remember it every day," her mother said.

Another student was also honored for his inspirational story.

Hannah remains humbled by her experiences and the award she received.

She said after graduation she plans on studying nursing so she can help others the way many have helped her.
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