Californian Kathy Darling could hardly contain her emotions when workers for the Union Sanitary District Collection Services rang her doorbell and returned her engagement ring — a ring they rescued from the sewer system, a beloved treasure she thought was lost forever.
"I thought she was going to faint when I showed her the ring," system worker Rob Shenk told the San Jose Mercury News. "I wondered if I was going to have to open her screen door and catch her."
Only one day earlier, Darling has slipped off her ring and set it on a tissue box in the bathroom while she took a break from housecleaning. Forgetting about the ring, the Fremont resident used the tissues and flushed them down the toilet. What she didn't realize — until it was too late — is that her engagement ring had been flushed, as well.
Darling's first reaction was to call a local plumber, but he was unable to locate the ring. She then contacted the Union Sanitary District, whose supervisor, Rick Czapkay, dispatched Shenk and Steve Bullis to work their magic.
It was the second time in nine months that Union Sanitary District Collection Services workers were called on to recover bridal jewelry thought to be lost in a sewer line.
Shenk and Bullis flushed the street's main sewer line and inspected the debris that washed back — while curious neighbors looked on. Amidst the gunk was Darling's engagement ring.
Kathy and Bob Darling couldn't be more appreciative of the efforts made by the municipal workers. They offered a reward, but the Shenk and Bullis declined.
"Just seeing the looks on their faces was reward enough," Shenk told the San Jose Mercury News.
So Kathy Darling did the next best thing. She delivered a thank-you letter and homemade baked goods to the Union Sanitary District Collections team. Along with a big batch of cookies was an assortment of cakes, one of which was decorated with a faux engagement ring.
"[Shenk and Bullis] were both very determined to find that ring," Darling wrote in a heartfelt thank-you note that she read aloud during a 7:00 a.m. crew meeting. "It was a miracle when they came to my front door and Rob took the ring from his pocket. I couldn't stop hugging them."
"I never, ever thought they would find the ring," she continued. "They brought a perfect conclusion to a traumatic situation."
The Union City-based district serves Fremont, Newark and Union City, and maintains more than 800 miles of underground pipeline in its service area.
Photo top: Bob and Kathy Darling with Union Sanitary District's Rob Shenk and Rich Czapkay. Credits: Facebook/Union Sanitary District.