Roy Exum: ‘Hello, My Name Is Charlie’

Saturday, May 24, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

After Skyler James graduated from Charleston High School last week in Illinois, her parents had a party in her honor on Sunday afternoon. The 18-year-old honors student, who will attend Concordia University in Chicago this fall, was talking to some friends when she was told her parents wanted to see her and standing beside her mother was a man who Skyler didn’t recognize.

“Hello … my name is Charlie.” The man said to her. “You and I have met once before.”

Skyler politely studied his face and shook her head, unable to place him. “We met back on Nov. 4, 1995. Do you remember that day?” he asked and the now bewildered girl actually said “No.”

“I know,” Charlie smiled, “I don’t expect you to remember the day you were born. On your birthday I found you underneath the pine tree in the cemetery…” That’s when Skyler, bursting into tears as she suddenly realized who Charlie was, jumped into his arms and hugged and hugged as both cried over what has to be the greatest graduation gift of the year.

On November 4, 1995, Charlie Heflin remembered it was 20-below-zero in Illinois with the wind chill. He was working for a cable company, repairing lines that had snapped in a heavy snow during the night and, because he was also a volunteer firefighter in Urbana, he had a police scanner in his truck. With the fierce weather, he was unable to work outside for more than a few minutes at a time and was listening to the scanner when he heard an oddity.

The dispatcher said a female caller had anonymously reported she had abandoned a newborn baby in a cemetery near a pine tree but that a team of firefighters and police had scoured the place and couldn’t locate any child. Charlie remembered another cemetery about four miles away and, on a gut hunch, he drove to New Hope Cemetery to look around shortly after 7 a.m.

“I pulled up in front of the cemetery.  There was a large pine tree,” Heflin told ABC News this week.  “There was about a foot of snow on the ground.  There were footprints all over the area so it looked like somebody had been there.  I couldn’t find anything.  I walked around the pine tree a couple of times and I didn’t see anything.”  Heflin walked back to his truck but said something told him to go back and check one more time.

"I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree,' Charlie told WFIE reporter Kenny Douglass. "I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found her. She was wrapped in a Raggedy Anne blanket."

He immediately wiped away the snow and leaves and put the newborn under his coat, hurrying to his truck and its warmth. He radioed in, driving madly with one hand while holding the baby inside his coat, and was met by an ambulance halfway to the hospital. When he handed the baby to the EMT, it was the last time he saw Skyler until her graduation night, when he secretly watched her walk for her diploma before surprising her at the party.

“When they called her name to get her diploma I actually got to see her for the first time,” he said. “It was just a mix of emotions.  All great stuff.  I was so happy it turned out so great.  She graduated with honors and was a beautiful young lady.”

You see, because of privacy laws, Charlie was unable to find out anything about Skyler after he passed her to the ambulance. But five days after she arrived at the hospital, a critical care nurse there and her husband adopted the baby. Bonnie and Greg James adopted another abandoned child a year later and have been very truthful with their children. Skyler has wanted to meet the man who found her since she was five.

Only recently has social media enabled a good search and, when Bonnie found Charlie on Facebook at the Potoka Fire Station several weeks ago, the graduation day reunion was set in place. “There were quite a few tears, both on the phone and when Skyler and I met,” said the firefighter.

He gave her clippings that he had saved for 18 years and even handed her the fireman’s fleece jacket that kept her warm on her first ride to the hospital. Charlie told her that she had actually inspired the state law, “Safe Haven,” that allows any newborn to be dropped off at a hospital, fire, or police station without legal repercussions.

Skyler told ABC News, “It’s very important to me to remind myself that even though I had a rough start in life, I have an amazing life and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.  I’m just so blessed that God has given me this great life,” she said.

Skyler James hopes to become a pastor and Charlie Heflin is tickled pink.

royexum@aol.com




American Royalty And The Government Shutdown.

Sad but true, our Congressman and senators have become American Royalty that are so arrogant they can continue to receive their pay while our government is shut down.  Those protecting these arrogant politicians work without pay and risk their lives so the American Royalty can continue to live their lavish life styles.   The American Royalty is too good to accept ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What’s The ‘Super’ Done?

The headline on Jan. 10 in the Times Free Press read, “Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers.” In smaller type underneath, the sub-head added, “Less than 33 percent of county elementary, middle school students read at grade level.” Then, just seven days later, this on Friday, the same newspaper bannered, “Hamilton County Schools superintendent ... (click for more)

Ivy Johnson, 23, And Cordarrius Johnson, 26, Shot Early Sunday Morning On Lillian Lane

Ivy Johnson, 23, And Cordarrius Johnson, 26, were shot early Sunday morning.   Chattanooga Police were notified at 4:39 a.m. of two people arriving at a local hospital with gunshot wounds. Upon arrival, police spoke with the two victims who were suffering from non-life threatening gunshot wounds. The victims arrived at the hospital via personal vehicle.   ... (click for more)

2 Top Officials Leave Administration Of Sheriff Eric Watson

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson on Sunday announced the resignations of Chief Deputy Brian Smith and Director of Administrations Arnold Botts. He said they "served with distinction for the past four years." The Sheriff's Office said, "Smith notified Sheriff Watson that he is exploring business opportunities in the private sector, while Botts mentioned the timing was right ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Mississippi State Too Tough For Lady Vols

KNOXVILLE --  A tough week for the Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team got just a little bit tougher on Sunday afternoon here at Thompson-Boling Arena. With the season’s largest crowd of 13,436 fans and a national television audience watching, the sixth-ranked Lady Vols were hoping to get a little redemption after blowing a big lead and losing at fifth-ranked Notre Dame on ... (click for more)

Heights Boys, Girls Team Post Solid Victories On Saturday

Hamilton Heights’ girls defeated host Mercy Academy in a cakewalk, 75-35, to wrap up their impressive effort in the Raatz/O’Shea’s Classic in Louisville, Kentucky. The Lady Hawks (18-2) were led by Elizabeth Balogun’s 19 points and Treasure Hunt added 16 points. Esmery Martinez had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kamilla Cardosa scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Jazmine ... (click for more)