(CNN) – What lies behind the smile of this seven year old girl is the kind of courage seen in those well beyond her young years. That’s what Larry Wilkins thought when Sailor Gutzler showed up on his front porch late Friday night and told him an incredible story.
“She just said my mom and dad are dead we just had a plane crash and the plane was upside down.”
Gutzler and her family took off from Key West, Florida early Friday.
On board, her father, who was piloting the twin engine aircraft, along with her mother, her nine year old sister and 14 year old cousin. Sailor was the only survivor.
How was she able to survive the crash? And then endure hiking three quarters of a mile through dark, cold woods without shoes or warm clothes? Still unknown.
“The little girl, she was amazing, composed for a 7 year old girl who had just got out a plane crash and lost her parents. It’s just amazing.”
Her story of survival is rare but there are others, documented in the CNN film “Sole Survivior”.
In 1987, Cecilia Cichan was just four years old when she was the sole survivor of Northwest Airlines flight 255. 154 people were killed when the airline crashed on take-off in Detroit, including her entire family.
“I have memories of my parents. Not so much like how they talked, but more like interactions with them.”
Decades later she still has scars and something more…
“I got this tattoo as a reminder of where I’ve come from”
Cichan credits luck for her survival.
Austin Hatch believes a higher power may have helped him. “I think God had his hand on me and I think there is a plan for my life. It would be interesting to talk to someone who has been through something similar but I haven’t found them yet.”
In 2003, when Hatch was just eight years old, the small plane his father was piloting crashed, killing his mother and siblings. Hatch and his father survived. Then tragically, eight years later in 2011 Hatch was in another crash. This time, his father, again the pilot, was killed as was his stepmother.
Hatch the only survivor, his brain injuries so bad he had to re-learn to walk and even talk.
Now just a few years after the second crash he’s on a basketball scholarship at the University of Michigan and scored his first career points last month.
“Basketball has given me something to shoot for its been my goal since I woke up from the coma.”
What they all have in common is not just a shared tragedy, but a will to survive.