Call it an occupational hazard, but I am constantly in pursuit of a good story. What makes a story “good” varies wildly, but sports heroics are always good, same with someone overcoming long odds. In a small town, our reporters frequently get to tell the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I personally love interviewing older people whose stories we may not have much more time to gather.
For the first time in my career as a reporter, my kid is the subject of a good story.
Last week, our 10-year-old, Aidan, found a postage-stamp-sized memory card to a camera on the grass in Prosinski Park. When I picked him up from football practice, he proudly showed me his find and asked that I help him find the owner.
I didn’t give the memory card another thought – that could have been dropped by any one of the thousands of people who have traveled through town this summer, and I just didn’t have a lot of hope of reuniting owner with memory card.
But Aidan is persistent, and days later he took things into his own hands and loaded the card into my computer and started browsing the photos. There were photos of Christmas, birthday parties and a family trip to Disney World. He didn’t recognize any of the kids in the pictures, and neither did his sisters or I. We agreed that whoever had lost the memory card was probably passing through.
Still, he was unfazed. What if the photos on the memory card weren’t stored elsewhere? What if the family was sad that they’d lost those precious memories? He asked that I please post a couple of photos to Facebook to see if someone might recognize the people.
Mostly to placate him, I shared two photos to my personal Facebook page, as well as to a few “groups” I belong to. Within hours, the post had been seen and shared by people in Washington, Texas, Colorado and Minnesota.
And then, I got a response from Kristin Hatch from right here in Buffalo. She recognized the people in the photos: They were her in-laws and their children who now live in Florida, and the photos were seven or eight years old.
I arranged for Kristin to pick up the memory card so that it could be returned to her family, and I felt like Aidan had enabled this happy little reunion.
Kristin had no idea how the card could have found its way to Prosinski Park; it’s been years since her in-laws last visited Buffalo. Had a family member dropped it on their last visit years ago and it survived all those years in the park? Had someone else found it, carried it around for years and only recently dropped it from a purse or pocket? It’s a mystery to be sure, and a bit of a miracle that the little card was still functioning.
The little girls in the photos are now in high school and college. Then Kristin told me the little boy in the photos drowned on a pack trip shortly after the photos were taken, and they did not know whether the card had ever been backed up to a computer or whether they had all of the prints made from it. I got goose bumps up and down my spine and tears came to my eyes.
I don’t know whether the family had the photos saved anywhere else. If they don’t, Aidan deserves all the thanks for reuniting them with their photos.
If they did, I’m still proud of him. I’m proud that at 10 years old, he has enough empathy to understand what those photos might mean to the family and I’m proud that family is so important to him.
There are some things we can’t explain – like how a memory card ends up in a football field and survives for years. Or how one small act of kindness by a little boy in Wyoming can ripple across the internet and into a home in Florida.