How Elgin twins reunited 1,200 family photos at bottom of pond with their owner
The camera stayed at the bottom of a murky pond in Elgin for five years, with more than a thousand family photos of precious memories -- birthdays, soccer games, Christmas, a zoo trip, Fourth of July and even a wedding -- locked inside.
Thanks to 12-year-old twins who love fishing, the photos made their way back Monday to their overjoyed owner, who had long ago lost hope of recovering them.
"It was cool," Ryan and Luke Considine said in the deadpan way of middle schoolers everywhere.
The camera belonged to Julie Vaca, who lives near Northlake and was distraught to have it slip out of her pocket into the water during a fishing trip with her husband and grandsons in June 2015, said her daughter, Michelle Rosas of South Elgin.
"We were both shocked at first because we had already come to the terms that we weren't going to get those pictures back," Rosas said of being notified the camera was found. "Once it settled in, then it was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It was amazing to have the opportunity to have those memories back and actually get to see them again."
The twins live in Elgin's Providence subdivision and have fun catching and releasing bass and bluegills at the pond off Boathouse Park, down the street from their house.
During one fishing expedition last summer, a pair of pliers that belonged to their dad slipped into the water, and the twins figured it was lost for good.
On Sunday, their father, Brian Considine, found a large magnet while cleaning out the garage. He told his sons to attach the magnet to the end of a rope and go to the pond to see if they could fish out the pliers.
Luke and Ryan, sixth-graders at Prairie Knolls Middle School, said they also hoped to find a bicycle some kids had thrown into the pond recently. "We saw it on Instagram. I have no clue why," Ryan said.
The twins instead ended up fishing out a whole bunch of other stuff: two bicycles -- but not the one on Instagram, they said -- two knives, a small Spider-Man fishing pole, a small tackle box, a flip phone, two fish nets, a small folding chair and a lot of fish hooks.
Their biggest find was the camera, a Canon digital model they had to break apart to retrieve the SD card.
"We did not expect it," Luke said.
The next morning, their father took the SD card to work so he could use his computer there to open it. He saw there were about 1,200 photos from 2013 to 2015 of what appeared to be a family -- mom, dad, and two boys, and a newborn later -- along with relatives and friends.
He emailed a few photos to his wife, Sharon Considine, who posted them on the neighborhood social media app Nextdoor and asked if anyone could identify the family.
By the afternoon, a neighbor, who turned out to be a basketball coach for one of the boys in the photos, responded, saying he knew the family. By evening, Vaca and Rosas went to the Considines' house to retrieve the SD card.
"It's kind of crazy and amazing how the card itself is still working after all those years in a pond, with the freezing and unfreezing we had here," Rosas said, adding she and her family are very grateful to the Considines.
The day of the mishap five years ago, Vaca's husband waded into the water to try to find the camera, to no avail. Ever since then, mother and daughter have been diligently downloading all their photos to computers or cloud computing to avoid going through such upset again, Rosas said.
Ryan and Luke, members of Boy Scout Troop 38 in Elgin, got a nice "thank you" card and $20 for their effort. Luke said he might buy something at Target; Ryan said he might buy more rope at Home Depot.
Meanwhile, the twins are looking forward to continuing their treasure hunt in the pond. Their magnet got stuck Sunday at the bottom of the pond, so their parents mail-ordered a new, stronger one.
Next time, the twins said, they hope to find the magnet and maybe even a kayak that goes with a paddle they pulled from the pond a few years ago. And perhaps their dad's pliers, too.