A needle-in-a-haystack search by a New York City Parks Department worker willing to go the extra mile turned up a diamond in the rough, literally.
It also saved the day for Danielle Hatherly Carroll, an Australian artist who lost the diamond, her wedding ring, while teaching an outdoor art class in Battery Park on Sunday.
“It was really, really busy and we were wiping our hands frequently and throwing rags and towels into a large clear trash bag that one of my students had brought along,” Hatherly Carroll, who lives in the East Village with her husband, Steve, told Goodmorningamerica.com. “Normally I’d be so conscious but it was so busy.”
The couple came home so exhausted that when Hatherly Carroll woke up in the middle of the night she had an instinct that something was wrong.
“At 3:30 on Monday morning I woke up and felt my left hand right way and just thought, ‘Oh, my God,’ because I knew I hadn’t taken [my wedding ring] off,” she said. “I didn’t have one doubt in mind that it was down in Battery Park.”
Hatherly Carroll sneaked out of bed and got dressed to find her ring, trying all along to not wake her husband because this was the second time she had lost her wedding ring. This newly lost ring was a replacement, a gift from her husband last year on their 10th wedding anniversary.
Carroll woke up just as his wife was nearly out the door. She begrudgingly admitted her plan to have a police officer escort her into the park to search. His response? “You can’t go alone. Are you crazy?” recalled his wife.
The couple took a cab together and by 4:15 Monday morning found themselves digging through bags of trash. On the verge of giving up hope, the pair spotted a city trash truck on the edge of the park and decided to leave a note asking that day’s driver to help their search.
“Hello, I believe my wedding ring is in this truck…. It is 5 a.m. and I came down to the park to look for it…. Please call me to tell me where the truck is going. I will come ASAP,” the note read in part.
In a lucky twist of fate, the driver of the truck that day happened to be Parks Department Gary Gaddist, there working overtime on his day off.
In another twist, Gaddist, on his normal duty days, would be driving another truck, the same truck where the Carrolls had originally left their note. At the last moment the couple spotted and recognized the smaller NYC Parks truck that Gaddist ended up driving and moved their note there.
“We just had a feeling that that would probably be the truck,” Hatherly Carroll said. “I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to write another note so we said, Let’s take a gamble and put it on this truck.’”
That gamble paid off big time because Gaddist was touched by the note and decided to help. He called the couple at the number they left around 7:30 Monday morning.
“He [Gaddist] said that he saw the note and asked questions about where we left the trash and what exactly we were looking for,” said Carroll. “When I told him … it seemed like it was going to be a monstrous task and he didn’t think he’d be able to find it. I had already pulled out our insurance policy to file a claim and start looking for another ring.”
But Gaddist kept searching. Just 45 minutes later, the phone rang again in the Carroll’s apartment.
“Gary called back and said, ‘I think I found the ring,’” said Carroll, who then identified it as a gold band with eight or nine diamonds on top.
“Yup, I found it,” said Gaddist, according to Carroll.
Hatherly Carrroll, who until then had been sleeping off her early morning dumpster dive, heard her husband’s shocked reaction and quickly screamed, “Thank you Gary,” into the phone.
She then jumped into a cab and went down to Battery Park to retrieve her ring and thank the man who, despite all odds, had found it safely wrapped in a dirty rag in the clear trash bag.
“The first thing I did was give him a big hug and gush, Thank you, thank you so much,” she said. “Then I grabbed him again and gave him another hug and a kiss on the cheek. He knew how happy I was.”
The Carrolls also gifted their “Lord of the Ring,” as the New York Daily News, which first reported the story, called Gaddist, with a $100 reward, which he told Hatherly Carroll he’d use to treat himself to lunch.
“He was so modest about it, but we saw that bag. It was filthy,” said Hatherly Carroll, who now plans to buy a “painting ring” from the Dollar Store to use when she teaches. “He would have had to peak through a lot of paper towels and rags to find it.”
Attempts made to reach Gaddist for comment today were not successful.