Kristy Irby knew she would need a miracle when her car left the road and was caught in the current in what was usually a shallow creek in Pelahatchie.
On Tuesday, it was swollen from all the rain. She had been on the phone with her husband when she'd had to brake to keep from hitting a deer and her car skidded on the wet, muddy road and nosedived into the water.
As she watched the water come through the air vents, she told her husband, "We're in the water."
Irby's instincts kicked in quickly, because her daughter Alley, 2 1/2 years old, was in the car with her. All she knew was that she had to get them both unbuckled and out of the car before it sank.
"I was trying to bust out the windows in the car, and I couldn't bust them for anything. I was kicking and punching, and I was praying and begging God, 'You're the only one who can save us,'" she said.
As determined as Irby was to live, God was apparently that determined to answer her prayer. Just after that statement, her drivers' side window rolled down by itself, she said.
"I've got about an inch of air and I have one leg out of the window and I say, 'Alley, you've got to hold your breath, baby. We're going to have to swim,'" Irby said. "I see her face and she's so scared, and I'm thinking, 'God, you've got to do something,' and the current is pulling us."
The water had already washed the car far enough down the creek that it couldn't be seen from the road, but not before a passerby saw it and called 911. She was directed by the operator to go back to the spot and stay there until help arrived so she could show responders where the car was, and when she got there, she couldn't see Irby's car anymore.
Meanwhile, Alley and Irby were being carried even farther away in the freezing water. As they rounded a curve in the creek, they hit a tree. Wrapping her legs around the tree, Irby put Alley as high up on her chest as she could to get her out of the water. That was another piece of the story that may have saved their lives.
Officer Shane Gibson took the call, and when he got to the bank of the creek, he could see the car ahead where it had floated, and he dove in. He said the current carried him quickly to the car and slammed him into the side. He could hear Irby screaming, "Help, we're drowning."
"I didn't think anything about it. It sounds stupid, but when you hear a woman screaming that they're drowning and you're looking at a car in the water, you're not thinking about anything, you're going in," Gibson said.
Gibson, trying to determine where the screams were coming from, checked the mostly submerged car, but realizing he couldn't see anything, pushed away from it to see if they might be behind it. At that point, he saw a bright pink hairbow right around the curve in the creek. The current carried him to where they were, and he grabbed for the tree.
"I was coming toward them, and went under. When my head popped up, I could see the baby, and her eyes were huge, and I don't know why but I said, 'Hey punkin,'" Gibson said. "And I'm thinking if I miss this tree limb, they're going to find me and these people in Scott County."
At one point Gibson realized he was so cold he couldn't feel his legs, and while he could see his hand holding on to Irby's arm, he couldn't feel it. He knew she'd been in the water longer than he had, and that she had to be completely numb. He got Alley to the bank first, then came back for Irby. During that time, his backup, Officer Willie Roberson, showed up.
"He's a humongous guy, and he's 9 feet tall or something, and I could hear him hollering on the radio, and he's running through the bushes coming toward me," Gibson said. "I couldn't see him, but I saw the trees shaking where he was running through them, like a big ole rhinoceros coming through there. I was so glad to see him."
Gibson said he was glad he was there to help, but that Irby was the one who gets the credit.
"She got her baby out of the car, out that window, held on to that baby while she's doing 50 miles an hour down that creek current," he said. "She was able to grab a tree limb, and was holding on to it with one hand and the baby with the other. The mom, if you want a hero, that's the hero. That woman's tough."
Irby said she didn't feel so tough. In the wake of all she had been through, she said she was pretty emotional once she hit the bank.
"I just cried, I held her and I hugged him, and I just cried and I prayed, and I thanked God that he was there," she said of Gibson. "I know Shane is definitely an angel with a badge."
Pelahatchie Police Chief Glenda Shoemaker said she's proud of Gibson's quick thinking.
"Shane is one of those that has a big heart, a good personality, and he puts people first. He's a wonderful police officer," she said. "He's our comedian around here, but when it comes down to the business, he's about business."
Capt. Kevin Poole said he's very proud of Gibson as well.
"He's an awesome officer, and I would expect nothing different out of him," he said.
Irby said the whole episode was a clear indicator to her that God was looking out for her, and that He used Gibson, among other things, to answer her prayers.
"The moral of the story is that God gives you reasons to get closer to Him, and closer to your family, and He teaches you, 'Lean on me in your toughest times,'" Irby said.
"That's the only thing I could do is give it to God. 'This is yours. This is what you have to do for me, I'm entrusting you with this. I'm trusting you to save my life,'" she said. "And He did."