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With the assistance of New York City sanitation workers, a desperate couple waded through 800 disgusting trash bags to find two "priceless" platinum rings that had been accidentally thrown away.
"I felt really helpless," NYC apartment dweller Shannon Lombardo told WABC-TV. "It wasn't so much about the [value] of the rings. It was what they represented."
How the custom, vintage-style rings ended up in the trash is not an unusual story.
Lombardo, a mother of two, had cleaned the rings and left them to dry on a paper towel. One distraction later and they were on their way to city landfill.
"I think I got distracted with the kids," she said. "I think I just crumpled it up, and I didn't feel the weight of [the rings] and I threw them out."
When she realized her rings were missing — and probably in the trash — she immediately called 311, which is the city's non-emergency hotline.
A dispatcher connected Lombardo with the New York City Sanitation Department, which agreed to hold off the pickup at her Upper West Side apartment building until she could check the dumpster for her bags. When that effort proved fruitless, her next step was to visit a trash depot in nearby Fairway, N.J. — the last stop before the New York City waste is transported to landfills.
Decked out in protective gear and assisted by two sanitation workers, Lombardo and her husband of nearly nine years, James, immersed themselves in a yucky, smelly, unimaginably nasty mountain of trash bags. The bags had been dumped by the sanitation truck associated with serving their address.
James' strategy was to slit open random bags, looking for anything with an address on it. Within a half hour, he had found an address that matched his building.
With the search field narrowed, the couple soon found their trash bag. Nestled in a paper towel were Shannon's engagement ring and wedding band.
“Sure enough, there it was,” Shannon told the New York Daily News. “I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that it really happened... Everyone was excited. I don’t know who was more excited.”
The recovered rings have taken on a new meaning in the lives of Shannon and James. They symbolize love overcoming seemingly unsurmountable circumstances. They also represent the generosity and kindness of strangers.
"It's pretty incredible what these guys do, not only the jobs they do on a daily basis, but the fact that they went above and beyond," Shannon told WABC-TV. "It's very humbling and I'm so grateful that the city has this department."
Added James, "We live in the greatest city in the world. It's truly amazing."
Sekou Callender, a sanitation worker who assisted in the search, offered the couple a little romantic advice: "I said that it's a great time for them to renew their vows."
Credits: Screen captures via abcnews.go.com. Photos via the New York Department of Sanitation.