Updated: Mar 19, 2019
January, southern Florida, Luke Bryan and Lee Brice. Could it get any better?
Probably not, but it did get a lot worse.
We had driven nine hours to Port St Lucie Florida for a concert. It was perfect weather, 75 degrees, that fresh salty breeze blowing through the winds. And we were on top of the world. We had met and hung out with Lee Brice and his band several months before, and excited to get to see him perform again. It was Allison’s birthday and we were ready for good times. We had checked into our hotel, picked up our tickets, and had a blast a hole in the wall restaurant right on the inlet complete with live music. As we headed back to our hotel I had the brilliant idea to get up early and head to the beach for sunrise. Since I normally vacation on the gulf, I wanted to capture the sun rising over the ocean for once. I set my alarm, and settled in for the night.
Let me just say, I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. The synapses in my brain do not fire until about 10:30 am. We all got ready and groggily but excitedly headed out the door bound for the beach.
THIS PART is burned into my memory so vividly I can still feel the exact moment my heart dropped. As I went to put the key in my car door, I had the thought “man my car is super messy, I didn’t realize we had left so much trash in the floor”. As my brain started to grasp reality, glass crunched beneath my feet and I realized my driver
window had been shattered, and the trash in the floor was actually everything from my dash and console. My next thought was “omg, my camera bag is wedged between the driver seat and back seat.” Well, it had been. It was gone. Everything I
had built up until that point was gone. All the gear that I had paid for by working my ass off tirelessly, gone. Knowing it would take so much time to replace all my lenses and flashes, I went into full hysterics. And called 911.
Several officers showed up and tried to calm me down. We recounted the story to them, a few jokes ensued about using my debit card on hookers and blow before freezing my account. Since not only had they stolen my life, but also, an old debit card and the bottom half of a check.
As I began to get finger printed, a conversation that will live in infamy occurred.
“Go get me a beer”
“Ashley, it’s 6:30am”
“Put it in a cup”
So there I was, still half asleep, drinking from a red solo cup, being finger printed on the back of my car.
So we continued about our day, everything of value went into the locked trunk or into the hotel room.
That afternoon I went to the front to talk to the manager who was literally zero help and comped me for half my stay, HALF. The employee at the front desk had stated that the detective had called the hotel looking for me… even though he had my cell… yeah, I don’t even know. We decided to get ready for the concert, because we were definitely still going.
As we were getting ready to walk out the door, I received a phone call. It was the detective working my case. By some luck of the draw, act of God, or destiny, he had been called to a suspicious vehicle in a neighborhood. When he looked in the windows of the van, lo and behold a bag matching the description of my side sling bag was laying in the floor. He read off the items that had been recovered and tears filled my eyes.
I remember him saying “this never happens. I mean never. I’m not even talking about within hours of the burglary, I mean we rarely recover anything at all, some victims will find items in a pawn shop, but this doesn’t happen.”
That was it. That was the moment. The very moment that I knew this is what I am supposed to be doing. I was born to be a photographer, to share my story with images.
We went to the concert, left at midnight, and headed back to Athens. My GPS had been stolen, but it was all highways, no big deal, I don’t ever get lost, I follow street signs. But just outside Orlando, there was a forest fire and 20 car pileup – we were redirected. Only not really. A straight shot drive became 12 hours of being lost in the Florida swamps, almost dying, crying, freezing with no window, and calling my dad at 4 am telling him I had no idea where we were, but somehow making it home. And by somehow I mean I literally have no idea how we made it back. I just prayed and prayed to get us back to the highway,
Several months later I received my gear, it had to be processed as evidence, and the entire case was a long process spanning over two years.
BUT I had my gear, and the assurance that I was on the right track.