Debbie Lopez's lifeline during those 72 hours she spent hanging off a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, she said, was a combination of two things: the thought of her family and her unshakeable faith.
“There is a God, and he listens,” she told a reporter from local TV station KSBY News, in San Luis Obispo, California.
The 57-year-old Atascadero resident not only plunged 150 feet in her truck and survived — after 48 hours waiting for help, she realized that her survival was solely up to her.
Lopez lost control of her pick-up truck last week on a winding highway above the Pacific when she was putting out a cigarette. That stretch of road has no guard rail, and her truck sailed off the edge of the cliff.
"The truck just flew over, and I could just feel myself flying down and hitting things I don't know what I hit, and when I landed, I didn't know I was upside down," she told KSBY.
When she came to, without a cell phone or food or water, she noticed cuts and a sharp pain in her ribcage area. She was wedged in, but she was able very slowly to get herself out of the vehicle through the windshield.
Lopez said that the fact that she survived the fall gave her a shot of strength. "I made it, maybe I'm halfway home," she recalled thinking.
“I knew at that point that I had to get myself out, I had to see my husband and my family," she added. "I wanted to go home."
It took her more than 24 hours just to set herself free from the wreckage. She yelled for help, prayed (she told San Luis Obispo Tribune she prayed the rosary more than a dozen times each day) and finally gathered the courage to try to climb up the steep slope.
She spent all the next 48 hours crawling up the face of the cliff, with only a little rainwater from the truck's wheel well for sustenance.
“It was the adrenaline of just knowing I could not get back down if I stopped,” she explained, “I just kept going forward and forward, little by little.”
When she made it to the top, the first thing she did was lean down and kiss the road.
"And then I said, ‘I am going home’," she told KSBY with a smile.
She flagged down a passing car and was soon rescued by a visiting family from Louisiana.
Lopez had been reported missing by her husband on Saturday, after she told him that she was going to the store and never came home.