New University of Houston graduate passes milestone without her beloved father

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A bubbly personality and positive outlook quickly come across when you meet Sabrina Galloway. The University of Houston senior graduates in just days with a degree in elementary education and is getting married this fall.

But many of her classmates may not have known the student beside them is a survivor.

"I've learned to cope with flashbacks," said Galloway.

The road to a cap and gown this May was full of sleepless nights and challenges.

"I had PTSD, so I had to learn to handle situations differently," she said.

When she steps onto the stage this week, graduating with honors as UH Student Teacher of the Year, her biggest fan won't be there cheering her on.

VIDEO: Sabrina talks about surviving disaster on Galveston Bay

"I know it's going to be an emotional day, I know there will be family there to support me, but there will be an empty space," she said.

In August of 2014, Sabrina was with her father, Ronnie Galloway Jr., on his shrimp boat in Galveston Bay. Her brother Cody and a deckhand were also there when a storm capsized their boat, the Mr. Anthony.

Captain Galloway died.

"We went from a family of six to a family of five so when we would go out to dinner, your table that was usually for six had this empty chair," she said.

Sabrina was trapped in a compartment for hours and thought she was going to die. A charter boat fisherman cut a hole in the boat and stayed with her until she could be pulled out safely.

"Still to this day, if there is exhaust and I smell gas or diesel, I start coughing and I get flashbacks," she said.

PHOTOS: The Galloway family

Even contact with water can pull her under, but her journey has been one of family, focus and health.

"When I do get upset, the first thing I do is start praying," said the graduating senior.

She said taking up running has helped her overcome anxiety, as has carrying out her father's wishes to lobby lawmakers on changes in the shrimping industry.

"My piece was said and whatever happens from here, I did what my dad wanted, I did what I wanted," said Galloway.

Since the accident, she appreciates the little things in life a little more.

"Life is so short. I think you should make every memory count," said Galloway.

As she crosses this milestone in a life that was almost cut short, she knows exactly what Captain Galloway would say: "That was something he never ceased to tell me, 'I'm really proud of you and I love you.'"

Report a typo to the ABC13 staff

Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.