Marty Anderson acknowledged from her hospital bed on Thursday that she's a lucky woman for escaping a morning crash without serious injury.
The 84-year-old was in her white BMW when she inadvertently jumped the curb and smashed into Binny's Beverage Depot, in a strip mall in the 150 block of Skokie Valley Road, in Highland Park at around 10 a.m.
Dozens of cases of vodka were smashed, and the gallons of booze fueled a fire that triggered the store's sprinkler system. Anderson was trapped inside her car but a Binny's employee ultimately pulled her out to safety, fire officials said.
"All these flames were going by," Anderson recalled. "They finally got me out and pulled me way out. Fortunately nothing was broken, just my spirit."
From the air, NBC Chicago's helicopter recorded video of the car's front end fully inside a side entrance to the store.
"It was tense," said David O'Sullivan, the store's manager. He commended employees for how they reacted.
Officials said they believe boxes inside the store may have cushioned the impact, but all the puddled alcohol made the scene more dangerous.
"I'm so thankful," said Anderson, a former teacher, avid gardner and 27-year cancer survivor. "I'm so thankful no one else was hurt."
Anderson said she doesn't know what happened that caused her car to careen into the store but expressed a bit of irony in the whole situation.
"I've never had a drink in my life," she said. "But I love chocolate."
A check of Anderson's driving record turned up no violations. She hasn't even had a speeding ticket.
A Binny's official said "six figures worth" of alcohol was destroyed or had to be destroyed following the crash.