"I just want people to remember there are a lot of good people on this Earth who are willing to help."
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A group of North Carolina landfill workers are being hailed as heroes after they went above and beyond to help reunite a couple with priceless jewelry that mistakenly ended up in the trash.  

On Friday, April 2, Pam Smith was cleaning her house in Castle Hayne when she noticed that approximately $16,000 worth of jewelry (including her wedding ring) was missing.

New Hanover County Landfill
Credit: Courtesy of New Hanover County

"I just was frantic that I couldn't find my rings," Pam recalled to WECT's Bill Murray. "But I knew in my heart I had thrown them, accidentally in the trash."

Realizing that their garbage cans had been picked up earlier that morning, Pam's husband Chuck took off running after their local sanitation workers.

"By that time, they had done at least 25 more houses," Chuck told the news station. "I was kind of panicked because that's a lot of money."

The crew couldn't just dump the trash in the street, so they agreed to have the couple meet them at the New Hanover County Landfill to look through the trash once they were done with their route.

Elliott Holliday and Kendrick Grady with SRWS (Select Recycling Waste Services), who were manning the garbage truck that day, alerted the landfill of the situation.

"We called and told them the problem," Grady told WECT. "We just needed a flat piece of land to be able to unload the truck."

Nobody from the landfill's management team was available at the time, so heavy equipment operator Kedar Brunson took charge and leveled off a spot for the trash to be dumped.

"I noticed this lady standing in front of my bulldozer praying, so I called my wife, and we were praying with her saying 'Lord, show this woman a favor,'" he recalled to WECT.

More than half a dozen landfill employees joined in to help with the search. After hours of digging through layers of trash—and minutes before the landfill was set to close—they came across a trash bag that Pam recognized. In it, they found a balled-up tissue with all of the jewelry inside.

"It's like we went through every bag. We went through, literally, the last bag before we found it," Grady told WECT. "It was truly a miracle."

Moved by the kindness and generosity of everyone they encountered, the Smiths penned a thank you note to New Hanover County.

"The events of that day made for an eventful time in our lives, and we will forever remember the compassionate and understanding way we were treated," the couple wrote. "You have very professional staff, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Speaking with WECT, Pam shared what she hopes people take away from their story.

"I just want people to remember there are a lot of good people on this Earth who are willing to help," she said. "And God is good."