18-years later, woman reunited with rescuer

Published 05/22 2014 04:39PM

Updated 05/22 2014 05:23PM

CHAMPAIGN -- A Charleston teen owes her life to a volunteer firefighter. He saved her as a baby after she was abandoned in a cemetery. 18-years after that rescue, the two finally meet again. Nick LaGrange has the story.

This story begins way back in November 1995, on a very cold morning.

"My birth mother abandoned me and I was left in a cemetery. That night, there was a call put out to the dispatchers."

At about seven in the morning, an anonymous woman called 911 and told dispatchers a child had been abandoned under a pine tree at Mt. Hope Cemetery. Police and fire crews were dispatched there, but couldn't find anything.

That's when local firefighter Charlie Heflin, who happened to be listening to scanner traffic, decided to help.

"We weren't but a couple of miles from there."

On a hunch, Heflin went to a different nearby cemetery to look for the child. He didn't find anything and started walking to his truck, but something told him to check again.

"I decided to turn around one last time to double check and I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree. I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found here."

Heflin says he scooped up the baby girl who was covered in blood and leaves, umbilical cord still attached and clinging to life in sub-zero temperatures.

"I handed her off to the paramedics and didn't see her since."

Skyler was adopted five days later by Bonnie and Greg James. When Skyler turned 5 years old, Bonnie started looking for Charlie.

"We had his name from the newspaper when I started looking for him and, of course, social media wasn't what it is today, then."

Just three weeks ago, Bonnie found Charlie on Facebook. She called the Patoka Fire Station and finally got a hold of Charlie.

"The call was, 'Are you Charlie Heflin? Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995?' My heart just sank."

Without telling Skyler, Bonnie invited Charlie to the graduation ceremony and to Skyler's graduation party.

"Quite a few tears, both on the phone and the day we met."

"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 Charlie 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 gave Skyler frames containing newspaper clippings of how they first met and pictures from Skyler's graduation. He'd also left her the jacket he was wearing the night he saved her life.

After more than a decade of searching, no one believes it's a coincidence they found each other as Skyler beings her adult life.

"It's just so amazing. I'm so happy."

Skyler plans to attend Concordia University, in Chicago, and major in communications.

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