Skyler James was one of the many high school graduates of 2014. She graduated from Charleston High School in Charleston, Illinois and has plans to attend Concordia University in Chicago. She wants to major in communications.
Not much of an unusual story, is it? She joins millions of other young people who walked the stage this spring and will begin that transition to be out on her own in just a few months. But, there is a bit of a twist to Skyler’s story.
Eighteen years ago on a cold November day in 1995 dispatchers in Champagne, IL received a call that a baby had been abandoned at nearby Mt. Hope Cemetery. Emergency crews were sent out and diligently searched the area, but could not find the baby.
An off duty firefighter, Charlie Heflin, heard the call and decided to help. Hearing that the police and fire crews couldn’t find the baby at Mt. Hope, he decided to try another nearby cemetery. Charlie didn’t have any luck, either, at least not at first. He was on his way back to his truck when he had a hunch to try again. Later Charlie said, “I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree,' said Charlie. "I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found her.”
Charlie found a newborn baby girl covered in blood and leaves. She was barely alive in the sub-zero weather. He scooped her up and handed her to paramedics. Five days later, baby Skyler was adopted by Bonnie and Greg James.
Bonnie, the birth mom, wondered about the man who saved her adopted daughter and wanted to make contact with him. When Skyler turned five she began her search for Charlie. Bonnie searched for 13 years, and three weeks before Skyler’s graduation, Bonnie found the man who saved her little girl. On Facebook. She called the Patoka Fire Station where Charlie works and made the initial contact.
“Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995?” Bonnie asked. “My heart just sank,” Charlie said. He added, “ Bonnie didn’t tell her daughter about the call, nor did she tell her that she invited Charlie to her graduation and party. “There were quite a few tears, both on the phone and the day we met,” Charlie said.
It couldn’t have gone better. Skyler says, “I was talking to someone at my party and my parents came up and said, 'We need you for a second. They took me over to Charlie and he introduced himself to me and told me the whole story again. I was totally shocked. It's something that I've dreamed of since I was a little kid, and it's amazing.”
Charlie had some gifts for the little girl he rescued who now is a beautiful young woman. He gave her framed newspaper clippings of her rescue, pictures from her graduation, and even gave her the jacket he was wearing on the night he found her.
The pictures and video of the meeting between Charlie and Skyler are very moving. Even though they’ve only met twice in 18 years, there is a definite bond between these two.
Incidentally, Skyler's story inspired the 'Safe Haven Law' in Illinois. In the event parents do not want their child, the state allows them to drop-off their newborn at an emergency room, fire department, or police station without any repercussions. That is certainly better than leaving them under a tree in a cemetery.
There are so many tragic stories in our world today, isn’t it nice, occasionally, to hear one where God has clearly been at work rescuing one of his children with his power in our lives?
How do you see God at work in this story?