(Editor’s Note: The following is an ongoing series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)
OCEAN CITY — Colby Phillips’s life seems to be intertwined with water. She was born in Charleston, S.C. next to the Atlantic and raised in Annapolis next to the Chesapeake Bay. And when she graduated, she headed back to the Atlantic and Ocean City. In the summer of 1993, Colby was enjoying the ocean life and working a beach stand on 19th Street. She met several lifeguards on the beach and became friends with officers Dave Griffith and Brent Weingard, who convinced her that she should take the test. Colby tried out “for fun,” made it on the patrol and “fell in love with” a job she would keep for the next 25 years.
Colby rose through the ranks of the OCBP, impressing everyone she served with. She said, “The OCBP didn’t just teach me about rescuing people, it taught me about integrity, customer service, punctuality and the importance of being to your job early in life.” She became only the second female promoted to an officers position.
Every guard on the OCBP has a story about that one particular summer rescue that stands out in their mind. Colby has quite a few, but one of her best stories came long after Labor Day.
“After my first summer with the OCBP, I was waiting tables at the Carousel for the winter. It was Nov. 19, 1994, and I was working the lunch shift as I had family in town and we were going to dinner. There was a youth group staying at the hotel and some decided to go swimming,” she recalled. “We had swells and rips from Hurricane Gordon. A security guard came screaming into the restaurant that there were kids stuck out in the ocean. I immediately ran out to see what was going on and saw they were caught in a rip current, hanging onto a log. I kicked my shoes off and swam out to see if I could talk them out of the rip. The water was freezing and it was hard to talk but they started kicking and following me out of the rip. Once we got to where the waves were breaking, several of the kids jumped off the log and were able to swim in safely to the paramedics who had arrived on the scene and were waiting on the shore.”
Colby continued, “One boy, however, was too afraid to go. I grabbed him and pushed him in with the next wave, which crushed me down and, for a moment, I actually felt like I was going to drown. I felt for the bottom with my feet and pushed myself up as hard as I could and caught a wave in to shore. Because I had a full tux on minus the jacket (which was our uniform for work), my bow tie was hanging off my pony tail and my shirt was pretty much destroyed. Minus some hyperthermia, everyone was okay.”
Colby received a proclamation from Mayor Fish Powell for the rescue and a Carnegie Mellon award nomination. Funny thing was everyone was making a fuss over it, according to Colby, and it was what the OCBP did daily for hundreds of people. She said, “To me it was just a part of the job. Always on duty was the mentality and anyone of my beach patrol family would have done the same. ”
Colby now lives near the beach in Berlin with her two daughters Remy and Sadie. She’s the Director of Amenities and Operational Logistics with Ocean Pines and was recently elected to the Maryland. Coastal Bays Board of Directors.