"I went from panic to calm," she said. She proceeded in steps, first unbuckling her seat belt, then grabbing the window and getting out of the car.
She said it seemed to take a long time to reach the surface. She gasped for air as many as five times. She looked around and began to swim.
Her mother, Melani Lake, said she knew her daughter was an incredible athlete. But "we didn't know she could swim like that."
She credited her daughter's "sheer will to survive."
For her part, the daughter, a student at the College of Southern Maryland, described herself as "blessed to be alive."
She said she learned that "there's a superman and a superwoman in everyone." The important thing, she said, is "just not to give up."
When the car went into the water, it was not far from the bridge, which is supported at that point by a series of pillars. Soon she reached rocks that surround the base of one of the bridge supports.
Division chief Keith Swindle of the Anne Arundel County (Md.) Fire Department said a boater in the area went to her aid and stayed there until the arrival of the county's fire boat and a boat from the Maryland Natural Resources Police.
After initial treatment, Lake was placed on a police boat and then flown by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. She was released Saturday from the hospital.
The police officer said it was first believed that she had suffered fractures, but he said her injuries turned out to be only bumps and bruises.
Lake said she was still experiencing considerable pain Sunday night. But "blessed to be alive," she said.