A young Texas woman turns tragedy into triumph. Meet Belle of Steel #15 Emily Allen Colbert

It’s the doorbell that no one ever wants to answer.  “There’s been a horrific accident,” emily-colbertexplained the policemen.  “It’s your husband.” Emily, a young wife and mother of two fell to her knees on the floor. There had been a car accident on Highway 66 in Rockwall. “Oh my God,” she cried out through tears.  “Is everyone okay?” But everyone wasn’t okay.  A vehicle had struck her Garland Fire Department husband’s car from the side.  The impact caused it to spin violently and roll with their oldest child.  Rockwall Fire Department was on scene. Her husband Devon was trapped inside the vehicle. The jaws of life were being used to cut him out. The car seat of her child was covered in glass shards, but miraculously he was unscathed. In just an instant, Emily’s life changed forever.  It was seven days before Christmas, 2012.

Emily threw her things into a bag and frantically called her mother to drive her to Parkland, one of two major trauma centers in Dallas, TX.  According to the policeman it was controlled chaos and they were still cutting Devon out of the car. He was alive, but in critical condition.  In the trauma bay at Parkland, there were already thirty Garland firemen surrounding her for comfort.  “He’s gonna be okay. We promise.” But he wasn’t. Not totally. The next bad news Emily would hear was from the ER physicians.  Devon’s spinal cord had been sublux’d, or pinched at cervical spine number four. This dashing, young, strong fireman became a quadriplegic at age 29.

Emily’s mother, a nurse, knew what that would mean. Devon would never walk again. Never run again. Never be able to put out fires, the job he loved, again. He would live the rest of his life in a chair with wheels. For most young women, this would be the kiss of death to a relationship; just too large a tragedy with which to cope. Because at first, everyone is helpful. Everyone is there. But it’s the heavy burden of long term care. Bathing your husband. Toileting your husband. Helping him to dress. Finding uncomfortable challenges with intimacy. Helping him find meaning in life. Thank goodness for the brigade of Garland and Rockwall firemen who came to their aid.

The first few months were pure torture. Rollercoaster’s of hope and despair. Their tiny home was not wheelchair accessible. But it wasn’t just the pragmatic day to day. Emily was exhausted from the protracted hours at rehab and caring for their two small children. She was bereft of energy or strength. She missed her husband’s caress. She missed the way he made love to her. She felt alone and, at times, hopeless. She had only one thing – her faith in God. She trusted in God’s love to win the day.

Over months, Devon slowly gained the ability to power his chair with his hands and shoulders.  He regained some gross upper body movement. Emily gave in to the generous charity and time that people provided so that she could get meals on the table and care for her children. Through it all though, she never considered this her rock bottom.  This was just another challenge that God had laid before her.

For years ago, Emily had indeed hit rock bottom. She was a gorgeous young twenty-something. Her life involved parties and partying. She dabbled in drugs and had become an addict; even when she had first met  Devon. She was at her lowest low. “My only option was to go up. I wanted to leave a life story worth knowing and reading. Not a life story of worthlessness and addiction. I chose to ‘forget about it – and left drugs behind. I chose joy.”

Upon that decision, everything changed.  Emily had a new focus on life and chose living. So she channeled that same strength in overcoming Devon’s accident. It had to have meaning. So many people had given to them to help them survive a life of quadriplegia, she had to give back. Emily started The Colbert Project, a non-profit foundation which raises money to bridge gaps for other facing financial ruin from tragedies throughout the fire community brought on by illness or off duty injury. Their mission?  To do behind the scenes work so that all the glory is given to God.

At their first event, a silent auction and ball, the seed money was raised. Now three years later, The Firemen’s Ball is one of the largest fundraisers of its kind in the Dallas area.  They have raised thousands of dollars to assist three families on a large scale and helped countless others with hospitalization care packages, gas cards, grocery money and so much more.

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Emily believes that because God blessed her little family, it is her job to return the goodness.  As a mere high school graduate, “Never in a million years would I have seen myself where I am today.”  She is a mother of two lovely young boys; the wife and life-long partner to a husband with quadriplegia; Chairman and CEO of The Colbert Foundation.  “This is a path that God chose me to tackle. I want to be remembered as a warrior doing good for others, not someone of stature in society.”

The people in life that most inspired her and mentored her to overcome are her grandmother and her parents.  “They are beautiful, unique creatures inside. That’s what counts.”  Despite her success, Emily is extraordinarily humble.  “I’m no one special. I’m just me. I live minute by minute, day by day. I never expected to face the challenges in life that God sent me.  I’m living and screwing up just like anyone else. I really don’t see myself as a Belle of Steel, although I am honored.  I just walk in hope each day. In that hope, I pray to kick some ass along the way.  Maybe that’s what makes me a Belle of Steel. Bam!”

For these reasons and seeing/watching with joy as another strong women overcomes, AgeView Press is proud to celebrate Emily Allen Colbert as its fifteenth Belle of Steel.

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What makes Southwest Airlines rock? Superman-like service that’s what!

Southwest Airlines logoOn a rainy Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, MD, I was desperate to catch my flight back to Dallas.    After all, my showtime as an author over, it was back to reality.   On Monday AM, I was due back at my real job.   The one that paid the aching nursing.

 Honored to have been selected to participate, I had been in DC as a part of an amazing group.    Academy Women, a Women in Military Service leadership group had invited four authors, all book award finalists from the Military Writer’s Society of America.  I was one of them.   What an amazing event it had been.  Young, brilliantly smart women representing the multi-cultural tapestry of America.   Midshipmen, Cadets, Lt. Colonels and Generals.   Students and leaders.   Active duty and retired.   It was a mecca of honor, courage and commitment.

The two day conference, designed to mentor future women leaders of tomorrow was held at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Hallowed halls depicting the history of women’s service within our U.S. armed forces.  As featured authors, we presented on what motivated us to write about women in service.

I had timed my departure from Arlington down to the tee.   A quick dart up 295 to the Baltimore-Washington parkway and I would be on my way to BWI – and my Southwest Airlines flight back to Dallas Love Field.  Except for one small detail, somehow I missed my turn.   I was on 395 and then Highway 50, being stopped at every red light in roughtown DC!  There wasn’t a chance in heck I was going to make my 5:20 PM departure.   And that was the last series of flights back to Dallas that evening.

To make matters worse, once I got to I-95 into Baltimore, my cell phone died.  I had no way to notify Southwest I was going to miss my flight!  According to the new cancellation policy, I would lose those funds.   For a starving author, that simply wouldn’t do.  This honorary trip has alrea-dy cost me more than $400 bucks.

As I approached the terminal, I had to make a choice.  Return the rental car and surely miss the ten minute notification window or park at departures illegally, run in and try to find an agent.   I chose the second.   Rushing inside the terminal I spotted Southwest gate agent, Darlene F.   She greeted me with calm reserve. “Take a deep breath, with the rainy weather, some of our flights are about ten minutes late.

A smile and a plan - taking care of customers!

A smile and a plan – taking care of customers!

“No, you don’t understand” I protested.  “My plane to Dallas leaves in twelve -minutes.  I am going to miss it and couldn’t notify you.  I can’t afford another ticket!” my voice quivered.  The tears had started up.

“Just breathe.  Consider me Lois Lane.  See Clark Kent over there?” she joked pointing to a grey haired, pleasant gentlemen at check in. “We’re gonna work some magic for you and save the day.  Have you got your reservation?”

I nodded and handed her the copy of the electronic ticket.   –

“You go turn in your rental car, before you get a ticket.  When you come back, just find me.  We’ll have it all worked out for ya.  No need for those tears.”

I smiled then with a huge sense of relief.   Dashing back out the front door of the terminal, I managed to get to my rented VW bug just before the airport cops made it around the circle.   Off to the rental car pavilion some two miles away.  Then, back on the rental car bus to the terminal.   Total time? Fifteen minutes.  It was now just after 5:00 PM.

Running into the terminal, I spotted “Lois.”

“Here comes your problem child” I called out.

“Head over to Kent” she pointed. “He’s gotcha all sorted out.”

“Really?  Wow, you guys are awesome!”

“That’s what cha get when you fly Southwest.  Great customer service”

“Boy, no kidding!  Thank you so much” I exclaimed.

As I made my way to the counter,  My “Clark Kent” who was really gate agent Kent B. gave me a big smile.  “Got cha all taken care of.  We routed you through St. Louis, but you’ll be home before bedtime.  Your flight leaves in twenty minutes”

“Wow, you guys are just awesome.  I can’t tell you enough how great my service has been on Southwest!   Great flight attendants.  Kind, upbeat people at the counters.  It’s been great!”

“Thanks, just doing our jobs.  But it’s nice to hear.”

What surely would have been a missed flight and hassle on another airline, was made doable by people that really care about their customers.    Thanks Southwest – yet again.  I know I have a choice when I fly.  Thanks for reminding me why I love to fly Southwest!

They love to fly and it shows!

They love to fly and it shows!