Aug. 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM ET
A perfect storm of old-fashioned sentimentality and new media fervor created a little miracle this week.
A Kentucky dad who bought an old video camera at a thrift store was just planning to revisit his own family’s memories, using the outdated gadget to play his old videotapes.
But inside the camera bag’s pocket, he found hours of footage of another family’s milestones – a little boy meeting his newborn brother for the first time, parents and kids carving pumpkins and the family on vacation. He could have just taped over those memories; but, then again, he couldn’t.
Instead, U.S. Army Sergeant Joseph Lynch made still pictures from the tapes, posted them on Facebook and Twitter, and shared them with local television news outlets. Reporter Scott Adkins of Wave 3 News did a story about the find. Within a few days, the adorable images went viral, and before the week was up, the family Lynch saw in those videos was at his doorstep to reclaim them.
“To be honest with you, I didn't do anything special,” Lynch told TODAY.com. “Anybody would have done that — I think so. If anyone saw pictures of a woman with her child for the first time, they would have done it. I think most people are good like that.”’
Phillip and Stephanie Humphrey had no idea that their videos were missing until a relative texted them to say images of their family were going viral on the Internet.
“It was a shock, needless to say, to see those out online,” Phillip Humphrey said. “It’s kind of surreal, the whole fact that we’re something people have gravitated toward.”
Humphrey said he gave the old RCA camera to his brother-in-law Kit Applegate more than seven years ago because he had another one that used the same sort of tapes. Applegate told Wave 3 News he barely used the camera and so he donated it to Goodwill in Clarksville, Indiana.
That’s where Lynch bought the old clunker for five bucks.
Lynch credited his wife, Geneva, with pushing him do the right thing. “My wife saw it and said, ‘There’s no way someone would give something like that away to Goodwill.’”
It turned out to be true: The Humphreys never wanted to let those memories go. They just forgot to check the camera bag’s pocket before they gave it away. They wanted those memories back so badly that on Saturday, they piled into their minivan with their four kids and drove more than four hours from DeMotte, Indiana to the Lynches in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I just feel very fortunate,” Phillip Humphrey told TODAY.com. “Really, we were very grateful to be able to go across two states and go pick those up from Joe and thank him.”
Now the family is viewing all sorts of old footage from years gone by, and Humphrey said his kids, Cooper, 12, Greyson, 10, Ella, 6, and Everly, 17 months, love the home movies. The rediscovered tapes let the two younger girls see their older brothers as little boys for the first time. Humphrey said he plans to get a new video camera and make some more memories.