Firefighter surprises girl 18 years after rescuing her as a baby

Skyler James was reunited with Charlie Heflin at her H.S. graduation.
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An Illinois student got the surprise of a lifetime at her high school graduation.

Skyler James was reunited with the firefighter who saved her after she was abandoned in a cemetery by her birth mother 18 years ago. Charlie Heflin, a firefighter in Champaign, Illinois, was listening to scanner traffic on a cold morning in November 1995 about a search for an abandoned child. When he heard firefighters come up empty in their search, he decided to help.

An anonymous woman had called 911, saying a child had been abandoned under a pine tree at Mount Hope Cemetery.

"We weren't but a couple of miles from there," Heflin told WFIE-TV in Evansville.

On a hunch, Heflin went to a different cemetery to look for the baby. He couldn't find anything and was about to give up, when he went back to check again. He found the baby covered in blood and leaves, with her umbilical cord still attached, clinging to life in sub-zero temperatures.

The baby girl was adopted by Bonnie and Greg James five days later. After about five years, Bonnie started looking for Heflin, but with just a name from a newspaper, her search stalled for more than a decade.

But just weeks before Skyler's graduation, she found Heflin on Facebook, called the Patoka Fire Station where he worked and finally got a hold of him.

"The call was, 'Are you Charlie Heflin? And do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995?' and my heart just sank," Heflin said.

Bonnie invited Heflin to Skyler's graduation, but kept the invitation secret until her graduation party.

"I was talking to someone at my party and my parents came up and said, 'We need you for a second' and they took me over to Charlie and Charlie introduced himself to me and told me the whole story again," Skyler recalled. "I was totally shocked and it's something that I've dreamed of since I was a little kid and it's amazing."

Heflin gave Skyler the coat he was wearing when he saved her life and newspaper clippings of the rescue.

The rescue inspired Illinois to pass a "Safe Haven Law," allowing new parents to drop off their newborn at an emergency room, fire department or police station without repercussions.