By Ida Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
In December 2000, Kebra Moore's life was falling into place just as she had envisioned.
Twenty-six at the time, Moore was in graduate school, had just started her first teaching position, had a blossoming singing career and was the proud mother of a 14-month old. On top of that, the wedding of her dreams was only weeks away.
But all of that changed on Christmas Eve. While traveling from New Orleans to Arkansas, Moore, her child and fiance were involved in a car accident in Utica.
"I was the only one injured," she said.
Her injuries were more than she could have anticipated.
"I couldn't move and my back hurt really bad," she said.
Moore suffered a spinal cord injury which left her paralyzed. And while devastated, she was determined not to let it deter her from living her life nor fulfilling her dreams.
"I wasn't going to let it take control of my life," she said. "I had my family and we have a strong faith in God."
That strength and determination not only helped her weather the storms ahead of her, but also has made her a beacon of inspiration.
Moore was recently selected Mississippi's representative for the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant. It is a title she plans to use to help other women – in as well as out of wheelchairs.
From tragic to triumphant
After the accident, Moore expected things to be back on track in a few months.
"I didn't know how drastically a spinal cord injury could change your life. I thought once I had surgery, had therapy, I would be off from work a couple of months and would go back to school before the school year ended," she said. "When you have surgery you think it's going to fix everything, but for me it didn't.
With the support of her family, Moore not only recovered, but also prospered.
"I read my Bible and prayed to God," she said. "I decided that I was going to take control of my situation.
She and her fiance had planned a big wedding in Beaufort on Jan. 29, 2001. A week after the car accident, they married in the hospital. Now a new wife and a mom, Moore was focused on the new path ahead of he
"I realized that I'm 26, I still have my whole life ahead of me," she said. "I decided that I was just going to deal with it as it comes and the best way I possibly could."
Moore and her family returned to New Orleans, where she underwent inpatient rehabilitation for four months. A month later, the family moved to California, where she underwent outpatient rehabilitation three days a week.
In 2005, Moore returned to the classroom for two years. She then worked as a program technician at the Department of State Architect, and later in 2008, she began work for the Social Security Administration, where she remained four years
In 2012, Moore moved to Meridian with her husband, Master Sgt. Marquis Moore, who is stationed at Marine Aviation Training Support Squadron One on board NAS Meridian, and their two children, Marquis Jr., 13; and Maurice, 11.
Ms. Wheelchair America
– and beyond
As Mississippi's representative for Ms. Wheelchair America, Moore said she hopes to raise women's self confidence.
"Just within the last couple of years, I started feeling comfortable in my own skin and my wheelchair," she said. "This wheelchair is now my brand. It gets me in the door and sometimes to the front of the line, where I use my story to help other women."
Moore will represent the state at the national competition in Houston, Texas, July 15-21. Although a newcomer to the pageant arena, she speaks like a pro when sharing her platform: "Focus on ability, not disability."
"Do not allow society to direct your future because you don't look like people on TV," she said. "Don't allow your injury to affect who you are and your spirit. As a woman, you should always take care of yourself and look your best."
In addition to her recently acquired regal post, Moore is also an accomplished singer. While gospel/inspirational music is her passion, she studied opera and classical music for more than four years, and is also experienced in jazz.
"I've kind of dibbled and dabbled in a bunch of different music genres," she said. "With me singing gospel, I put my flavor into all of my songs with what I've learned; I'm more contemporary gospel."
Moore has been traveling with Ability Expo performing in Houston, Atlanta, California, New York and Chicago.
Her first CD is scheduled for release in July. She is planning a video for her new original song "Never Let Him Go," which she cowrote with her husband and her pastor, the Rev. Gary Adams. An accompanying video will be filmed in early summer.
"I will be filming a video for the song with Teen Hotwheels, a group of 20-25 year-old women who perform dance moves in their wheelchairs," she said. "The video will be shot in California at a rehab center in June," she said.
Moore also has been asked to speak at the Disability Mega Conference in Jackson this summer. And if that is not enough to keep her busy, she is planning a ski trip.
"I get so many comments on how my story motivates women – not just those in a wheelchair," she said. "It makes me feel good to know that I can bless someone's life."
Her encouragement to others faced with life's obstacles is to pray and believe.
"That's what we always have," she said. "When we pray we have to believe in what we're praying; you don't want to pray in vain. Try not to have that mindset of 'It is what it is,' try to think higher ... People would tell me, 'You can do it,' but I had to believe it. And when I started believing, I started seeing and God started opening doors for me."
• Penny Randall, public affairs specialist at NAS Meridian, contributed to this article.
About Ms. Wheelchair America
The mission of Ms. Wheelchair America is to provide an opportunity of achievement for women, ages 18-60, who happen to be wheelchair users to successfully educate and advocate for the more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities.
Unlike traditional beauty pageants, Ms. Wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities. The selected representative must be able to communicate both the needs and the accomplishments of her constituency to the general public, the business community and the legislature.