While I breathe, I hope.

By Kassy Alia

Dum Spiro Spero. While I breathe, I hope.

I am ashamed to say that before last year, I did not know the South Carolina state motto. However, I felt those words long before I ever heard them spoken as I grew, lived and loved in the community I made my home. And last fall, those words became the heart of what got me through the most difficult time in my life as an entire community wrapped their arms around me and my family following the loss of my husband, Officer Gregory Alia.

Nearly immediately after we laid my husband to rest, the Great Flood ravaged Columbia. We saw heartbreak abound. Yet, against that landscape of sadness emerged some of the most beautiful displays of love and humanity that we could imagine. We witnessed courageous first responders serve without rest, saving lives and caring for the well-being of others. We watched as neighbors helped neighbors and people dedicated their efforts to caring for one another.

We have seen our share of tragedy, and yet we show time and time again how we rise above the pain to meet it with love, strength and resilience.

The Gervais Street Bridge Dinner is a symbol of that unity. It is a symbol of South Carolinians, of our community, of us.

Just days after the horrible events of last October, I received a call from Emile DeFelice, curator of the Bridge Dinner and Soda City innovator. He told me he wanted to honor not only my husband but the many, many other brave first responders who served us so valiantly in the flood. As a sign of that gratitude, he asked me to invite 200 first responders to the first ever Gervais Street Bridge Dinner.

That night was truly magical. Set against the beautiful architecture of the bridge and a cool October evening, we celebrated with 200 first responders and 800 other guests. There was music, there was laughter, delicious food and joy. For a moment in time, we were able to put aside the sadness to celebrate the tremendous spirit of our home.

This year, we have the chance to celebrate once more. While trying times continue to grow, South Carolina remains a beacon of hope. There is much work to be done, and we cannot stop pushing for change. At the same time, it is important to take a moment. Breathe. Celebrate our efforts toward a brighter future.

Join us in this celebration on October 23, 2016. Tickets can be purchased at http://gervaisstreetbridgedinner.com/. Proceeds raised will support four local charities: Congaree Riverkeeper, Canoeing for Kids, Harvest Hope Food Bank and my own organization, Heroes In Blue.

I am a proud supporter of this spectacular event. I stand with Emile and our Soda City friends as an agent for healing and celebration. Please join us in this mission and dine with us on the bridge.

Dr. Richard Alia, Alexis Alia, Rebecca Alia Mesnil (father, mother, sister in law), me, Leah Shumard (wife of Russ) and Russ Shumard (Lt at FAPD)
Dr. Richard Alia (Greg’s father), Alexis Alia (Greg’s mother), Rebecca Alia Mesnil (sister), Kassy Alia, Leah Shumard (wife of Russ), and Russ Shumard, Lieutenant at Forest Acres Police Department.

Flooded With Love

IMG_9766.jpgBlair Lindsey’s wedding day takes a surprising turn

By Kirstie Boone

Photography by Amy Jo Photography

Wedding day is a magical time for every bride, but Blair Minick Lindsey’s wedding took a little extra magic to pull off. Blair knew that planning an outdoor wedding would come with its own obstacles, but nothing could have prepared her for the unforeseen challenges her wedding would bring. Blair planned her wedding to her fiancé, Hal Lindsey, for Oct. 3, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. This day will forever be special in Blair’s heart, but this day was also the date of the beginning of the tragic “thousand-year flood” that devastated much of Columbia. Many of Blair’s long thought out plans were washed away, but she adjusted and created a special day despite the devastation.

Amy Jo Photography

Blair began carefully planning her dream wedding after Hal proposed in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 5, 2014. Hal took Blair to church at the National Cathedral and proposed afterward in the Bishop’s Gardens. When Blair began planning, she knew she wanted something outdoors in Columbia, but realized that pulling off an outdoor wedding could be a complicated feat. Blair was determined though, and envisioned lights in the trees and beautiful white flowers. She found the perfect location for her wedding and reception off of the Congaree River on her fiancé’s parent’s property. Blair chose to hold the ceremony by the river and the reception in front of the family’s beautiful, plantation-style home. She worked tirelessly to keep all of the many details organized. Her future father-in-law built an arbor for the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. to stand under during the ceremony.

Blair knew that South Carolina Octobers were notorious for beautiful weather, and everyone she spoke with agreed that October would be the best weather for a fall wedding.  As she checked the forecast in the month leading up to the big day, Blair hoped for beautiful, clear skies and sunshine. Blair began feeling nervous when she checked the forecast on Sunday, Sep. 27 and there was a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday. Unfortunately, the chance continued to grow, and by Thursday morning there was a 100 percent chance of rain. By around 10:00 a.m. Thursday, Blair knew that she was going to have to change plans. The forecast was not for the typical rain shower; it was predicted that 12 to 24 inches of rain would fall in Columbia.

Amy Jo Photography

Blair cried as she came to the heartbreaking realization that she was going to have to change her carefully laid out plans. She had to alter not only the wedding ceremony, but also the reception which was supposed to be outside as well. Reverend Dane Boston planned to marry the couple, and he helped them with the venue changes. The venue for the ceremony changed twice, but the chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church happened to be open and the couple married there. Blair’s backup plan for the reception had previously been to put up a tent in the original location, but she knew that the approaching storm was going to require more than a tent. Her sister-in-law helped her find a new reception venue, 300 Senate. This venue still had the atmosphere she was trying to capture on her special day, which was very important to Blair.

Amy Jo Photography

Blair set out to inform her wedding party and guests of the changes by using WedTexts. WedTexts is a communication tool that makes it easy for engaged couples to communicate with their wedding party and guests. Brides can upload contacts into the WedTexts app and send out mass texts with details, directions and maps. Blair and Hal were thus able to quickly communicate with their guests and wedding party about the change of plans.

Amy Jo Photography

Blair says she reached a breaking point at 11:00 a.m. on the day of the wedding when her band called to cancel because of the rain.  She was supposed to be getting her hair and make-up done, but this issue ultimately caused her to be two hours behind. Despite the many changes in plans, Amy Jo Wright, owner of Amy Jo Photography, managed to capture magical photographs of the couple. Blair says that she is extremely grateful and blessed that Amy Jo was the one she chose to photograph the day, and the rain ended up creating some beautiful effects in the pictures. Amy Jo came prepared with a calm and positive attitude, which helped Blair and Hal enjoy every moment. Blair and Hal took pictures together before the ceremony, and Blair was very worried about being late. Amy Jo told Blair not to worry, because the wedding couldn’t go on without her!

Blair says she found much happiness through her husband’s positivity. Hal stayed positive for her and handled the issues Blair could not. Blair says she had to focus on the purpose of the day, which was to marry the man of her dreams, and in the end everything turned out beautifully.  Her favorite memory from the day is getting out of the car for the first look. Hal opened the door of the car and when Blair emerged to see her future husband she knew everything was going to be perfect. Even though they faced many obstacles, Blair and Hal’s wedding day is one they will never forget. They were able to stay positive in the face of chaos—who could ask for a better start to their marriage together.

Amy Jo Photography