Dec. 27, 2012 at 9:05 AM ET
What looked like one person’s trash became a young girl’s treasure last month thanks to a curious Department of Homeland Security special agent.
Florida man David Nieland was on vacation with his family in the mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina last month when he noticed something sparkling near the edge of a brook while on a hike. It turned out to be a memory card from a digital camera. Nieland, a Homeland Security special agent, found his interest piqued and held onto it.
When he extracted the photos from the memory card, Nieland noticed an insignia on a girl's shirt. He traced it to an elementary school in Pickens, S.C. A teacher from the school recognized the student wearing the badge as Mackenzie Fisher.
The memory card also contained treasured photos of Fisher’s beloved grandmother, who died more than a year ago after a long battle with cancer. Were it not for Nieland's detective work, Fisher's family would have lost the treasured photos forever.
"She didn’t like to have her picture made, so we don’t have many of her when she got cancer,’’ Ashley Fisher, Mackenzie’s mother, told NBC’s Kerry Sanders.
“It’s an amazing gift because we have very few pictures of her,’’ Mackenzie’s father told NBC News.
The family had downloaded the photos when they were originally taken, but the computer that contained them crashed and is now in pieces.
“Thank you, David,’’ Mackenzie Fisher told NBC News. “Without you, we couldn’t have found these pictures, and these do mean a lot to me.’’
Nieland knows just what it feels like to have an item thought to be lost surprisingly returned. This past summer, his father’s high school diploma was found in a garbage truck and returned by a kind stranger who took the time to locate Nieland’s family and return it. Nieland felt he was simply paying it forward by returning the photos of Fisher’s beloved “Nana’’ this Christmas.
“I feel like she’s here watching over us,’’ Mackenzie Fisher said of her late grandmother. “Last year it was hard because it was our first Christmas without her, and this year I felt like she’s here.’’