Thanks to the curiosity of a Department of Homeland Security special agent, photos of a beloved grandmother were returned to a family in North Carolina. David Nieland was on vacation with his family in the mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina when he spotted something shiny on a walk through the woods, according to TODAY. A memory card belonging to a digital camera was just barely visible beneath some fallen leaves. Having worked as a special agent, Nieland’s interest was piqued and he held on to the card.
After extracting the photos from the memory card, he noticed in one picture, that a girl was wearing a sweatshirt with the insignia of a South Carolina elementary school on it. With that single clue, Nieland traced the photos back to their rightful owners. He brought the pictures to the school in Pickens, SC and showed them to a teacher. The teacher recognized the girl in the photo as Mackenzie Fisher.
The card also contained photos of Fisher’s grandmother, “Nana,” who had died over a year ago after a long struggle with cancer. Fisher’s family were extremely grateful for Nieland’s detective work, and selfless effort to return these photos.
When asked about Nana, Mackenzie’s mother held back tears as she said, “She didn’t like to have her picture made, so we don’t have many of her when she got cancer,” she told NBC’s Kerry Sanders.
“It’s an amazing gift because we have very few pictures of her,’’ Mackenzie’s father told NBC News.
TODAY reported the Fishers had taken the pictures three years ago but the computer they downloaded them onto had crashed, deleting the photos for what they thought might be forever.
The twist of the story is that Nieland had experienced the same kind of selflessness this past summer. Nieland’s grandfather’s high school diploma had somehow ended up in a garbage truck and was 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.
Mackenzie said last Christmas was especially difficult because it was the first holiday season without her grandmother. But now, thanks to Nieland, she said, “I feel like she’s watching over us… I feel like she’s here.”