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Nun who survived Italy earthquake goes viral in dramatic photo

by Randee Dawn / / Source: TODAY

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Keeping your head straight in a bad situation is a sign of courage and grit.

One nun demonstrated both in a photo taken of her following the earthquake earlier this week in central Italy that has claimed at least 250 lives.

Sister Marjana Lleshi
The photo that caught the world's attention: Sister Marjana Lleshi checking her mobile phone on Wednesday.Massimo Percossi / AP

The picture of Sister Marjana Lleshi, a 35-year-old native of Albania, bloodied and covered with dust, yet apparently calmly texting friends and family while sitting on the street. It has gone viral overnight.

As Lleshi explained to NBCNews.com, she'd been pulled from the rubble and was asked to sit in a chair. But, worried about aftershocks, she moved to the ground, where she felt "calmer."

Once there, she began texting her fellow sisters. "I had said 'adieu' and in the end it wasn't 'adieu,'" she said.

The earthquake, she reported, began around 4 a.m. But it took over a half-hour before it affected where she was sleeping, in the Don Minozzi convent beside the Church of the Most Holy Crucifix in Amatrice, where she and six other sisters cared for elderly women. Seeking help, she was trapped under a collapsing door.

VIDEO: Little girl rescued from Italy earthquake rubble as death toll rises

"When I started losing all hope of being saved, I resigned myself to it and started sending messages to friends saying to pray for me and my soul," she said.

But she couldn't text her family that, fearing such a message would kill her father.

Eventually, a local man did rescue Lleshi (she called him her "angel" in The Associated Press). He was the one who directed her to a chair.

Sister Marjana Lleshi
Sister Marjana Lleshi getting emotional while speaking with the press.Gregorio Borgia / AP

The photo has now gone viral worldwide. Lleshi had a head wound that required stitches and she's been checked for dust inhalation, but she's back home now. Her order lost three sisters and four of the elderly women they cared for, along with others in the community.

VIDEO: Italy earthquake: Dozens killed, desperate search underway for buried residents

Despite her ordeal, Lleshi is still hoping to attend the Sept. 4 canonization of Mother Teresa in Rome. But quake damage may bar her way.

"For me, she's the symbol of Albania, of a strong woman," she said of Mother Teresa. "I would have liked to go, but after this I don't think I can."

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.

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