MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - This month marks an emotional anniversary for two Twin Cities families.
Last November, an out-of-control car crashed into a retention pond off Highway 100 in St. Louis Park.
Five children spent at least 25 minutes submerged in the freezing water. Two didn't survive. One of the most seriously injured, 7-year-old Zarihana Rennie, is still working on her recovery.
In her Minneapolis home, Zarihana's every move is a measure of progress. No one knew this 7-year-old would be so full of life, considering that one year ago, she was so close to death.
"She had liver damage," said Shaniece Thompson, Zarihana's mom. "She had liver complete failure, internal bleeding, swelling, so, they never actually told me she would make it."
Shaniece Thompson won't forget the cold November morning when two of her children were pulled from a sunken car.
"I know she was under the water for more than 25 minutes," Thompson said. "I just know Zenavia was under 45 minutes.
Five-year-old Zenavia died that day. Her sister, Zarihana, spent the next four months fighting to live.
"It took her a month before she ever spoke," Thompson said. "She would sit there the whole time, and I would wonder, 'Is she ever going to speak?'"
Now home, her recovery continues. Every day she does physical therapy exercises to treat her lasting leg injury.
Academically, there are challenges. She's still trying to catch up to the second-grade curriculum after missing most of first grade.
"The struggle she went through, she needs all the support she can get," said DeQuae Rich, Shaniece's longtime boyfriend.
But the biggest obstacle in Zarihana's recovery is the loss of her younger sister.
"She does have survivor guilt, sometimes," Thompson said.
"She went underwater, too," Zarihana Rennie said.
Zarihana doesn't like to talk about the November accident. Instead she'd rather draw out her feelings. She often draws pictures of her and her sister.
Zenavia was buried wearing a cross necklace; Zarihana also wears a matching one to stay connected to her sister.
"She's my sister, and I love her, and she loves me," Zarihana said.
The driver of the car, Marion Guerrido, faces misdemeanor level traffic violations stemming from the accident.
Zarihana's family is trying to cover the cost of her growing medical bills.
If you'd like to help, please visit her GoFundMe page.
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