On January 20, 2017, police in Wyoming, Ill, rushed to the save a woman who called saying she was inside a burning house and was having a hard time breathing. What they found instead was a true story of heroism.
Flames engulfed 21-year-old Shelby Carter's house when firefighters arrived on the scene. They moved a pile of debris and discarded carpet to set up a ladder to reach the second floor window where they believed Shelby to be.
As they did so, a car seat rolled toward the house from the pile
Inside the car seat they discovered two-week-old baby Keana - alive. In a desperate attempt to save her baby, Shelby strapped Keana in a car seat and dropped it out a second story window. This act saved her baby's life from the very fire that killed her mother.
Stark County Sheriff Steve Sloan said, "[Carter] was a hero as she put her baby into a car seat and dropped the baby to the ground."
"It's just incredible that she was able to pull her thoughts together to save her baby," said Wyoming Fire Chief Ed Foglesonger.
Firefighters found Shelby's body in a second floor room. An autopsy found carbon monoxide poisoning killed her from smoke inhalation.
She had celebrated her 21 birthday the day before
"On Facebook, she had posted what a great birthday and ... on Snapchat I'd seen 'loving these mommy moments' and she had the baby laying on her chest," said Shawna Burwell, Shelby's cousin.
Shelby lived in the house with her fiancé and mother, but only she and the baby were home when fire broke out downstairs.
Her family was not surprised when they heard she died saving her child. According to her obituary, children were Shelby's passion.
"She loved every child she came in contact with and they loved her," her obituary said. "Her greatest moment was becoming a mom."
Her death was gut-wrenching
To her close-knit community of 1,500 people, Shelby's death was a hard blow.
Shelby worked as a nail technician and was studying to become a pharmacy technician. The community mourns the loss of a young mother's talent and upbeat demeanor.
"She was making her mark in town," Mayor Pat Maher said. "She was very upbeat, always smiling."
The community set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for baby Keana's upbringing. Kathy Hardy, Shelby's mother, commented on the donation page to express her gratitude for the overwhelming support they have received.
"There are no words. Baby is perfect and she will be so well taken care of because of the generosity of not only our own community but strangers who never met us," Hardy said.
"To live in this small town is a gift and to see that a story of a hero with no cape or uniform be honored in this way is heartwarming," community member Jessica Kraft commented on the donation page. "I know that it is all appreciated as well as cherished in memory of Shelby Ann!"
The sacrifice of a mother
A mother's love is unconditional, as Shelby's example proves. Even on the brink of death, her first instincts were to save her sweet baby.