Firefighters do so much more for their community than put out flames.
Eighteen years ago, Gibson County, Illinois firefighter Charlie Heflin miraculously found a newborn girl abandoned by her mother in a local cemetery. Covered in blood and leaves with her umbilical cord still attached, Heflin quickly scooped up the tiny child and handed her to paramedics.
Due to privacy laws protecting the patient, Heflin hadn’t seen her since that cold November night. “It was hard to let her go,” he told “I wanted to know what happened with her. I wanted to go with them, but I was so elated that, at least when she left my hands, she was still alive. I was just praying she would make it.”
MORE: Watch These Amazing Firefighters Lift a Truck to Save an 86-Year-Old Man
The baby was adopted five days later by Bonnie and Greg James, who named the child Skyler. As WFIE reports, several years later, Bonnie started looking for the man who saved her daughter’s life, but never had any luck.
But just three weeks before Skyler’s graduation from Charleston High School, Bonnie found the firefighter on Facebook and arranged for him to come to the commencement ceremony. She also invited him to attend Skyler’s graduation party the following weekend.
“I was talking to someone at my party and my parents came up and said, ‘We need you for a second,'” Skyler told WFIE. “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.”
As a graduation gift, Heflin gave Skyler the jacket he wore the night he saved her as well as framed newspaper articles about her rescue.
More than just saving a life, Heflin has made an even bigger difference in the community. He says that Skyler’s story was the basis for the state’s “Safe Haven Law,” which provides the safe surrender of newborn infants at fire stations, police stations and emergency medical facilities while protecting the anonymity of parent.
ALSO: This Teacher’s Selfless Act Saved a Student’s Life
As for Skyler, the impressive student graduated with honors and and will attend Concordia University in Chicago starting next fall.
Among her future plans? Remaining in contact with Heflin.