My family now had not heard from me in more than an hour and was out looking for me. My wife was on the phone with anyone who could give her direction as to what to do. Some speculated that I had done what many had to do that night—seek shelter at one of the many businesses, churches, and schools that had opened their doors to hundreds as “warming stations.” Obvious only to me, this was not the case, unfortunately. My poor family faced the sheer terror of the unknown. “Where is Kelly, what could he have done?” they worried.
My wife and boys, my sisters and brother and mother started an all-night campaign to get the word out that their husband, dad, brother, and son had gone AWOL. PLEASE HELP! It was only a bit more than an hour after my last phone conversation with my family. To my amazement, I was considered missing, albeit the social media version of “missing.” Later, I was surprised to find that they had jumped to action so quickly, considering the “child is missing after twenty-four hours” rule. But it’s amazing what a positive tool social media can be, as it was for me that night. My sister Charlotte’s Twitter and Facebook onslaught caught fire, with exponentially growing attention that could have made Mark Zuckerberg jealous.
She had luck reaching out to every news organization, police, and fire rescue web thread and had every friend and their friends “share” the fact that I was missing. She was able to get my picture plastered on every possible social media site known to mankind.
A friend and former employee of one of my accounts, Ashley Watts Gaithers, posted this message for her friends to see: “Police asking for help finding man last seen around 7 p.m. in Vestavia Hills. Oh my goodness, I know him very well!! He was our FreeStyle Diabetic Supplies rep @ Professional Apothecary for many years!! This guy is genuine and has a heart of gold. He is a really bad diabetic himself. His wife is a pharmacist. I hope he has since been found, but help pass this along just in case! Prayers are with him and his family!!”
A year later, during my “recovery anniversary,” Ashley went on to say: “So happy Kelly was found safe! He is the good Samaritan who risked his own life to help others during the treacherous ice & snow last year. I’ve never known Kelly to meet a stranger; he is a friend to all, even those strangers in need!”
Many times I had come close to shutting down a couple of my online accounts and turning my attention to something more positive! I had found myself getting into online written arguments, sometimes with complete strangers. There was nothing I could say or do to change someone’s point of view. Now, in hindsight, the best thing one can do for another is to kneel down to pray for that individual. This would be the best use of time, not debating with some stranger when you might well be disagreeing with your own grandmother on the other end of the exchange. There has to be a better way to spend quality time than on a computer all day and night!
On January 28, around 10:30 p.m., my mother got a phone call from my sister Donna. My mother had just dropped off to sleep. She knew something was wrong from Donna’s voice. She told our mom that I was missing. All kinds of thoughts ran through Mom’s head. “Was he kidnapped, or what?” she wondered. She got up, went into the den, and picked up her Daily Devotion. She opened up to Psalms and read, “I cried out to the Lord and He heard my cry.”
Mom later said, “I thought, wherever Kelly is, God, Kelly is calling out to You. You know where he is, and his family doesn’t.” She said she felt she had to tell someone. She called a friend and told her to start praying for Kelly. The prayer chain began cranking up. Another friend insisted on being there with her should she get some bad news. They were up all night praying and texting my brother and sisters and Melissa and the boys, trying to keep in touch and to make sense of all that was going on.
With the weather so bad in Birmingham, she could not travel to help look for me. She said her thoughts were that I had gotten into a stranded car or gone to someone else’s house. Mom never felt they would find me dead. As typical as my mother is, she had that wonderful peace about the situation that can come only from God.
A little after 8:30 the next morning came the good news. I had been found and was alive! Not knowing what kind of condition I was in, Mom gave God all the praise and glory for keeping me safe through the freezing weather.
During her time of waiting and praying for the unknown whereabouts of her son, Mom meditated on the following Psalm. (I still have the verse she clipped out of her prayer book for me to have in the hospital. It was more than foretelling for God and His angels to have this verse ready for my mom in that time of comfort while I lay in the pit, right?)