Some say you “just know” when you meet the love of your life. And when Amy Giberson started dating Justin Pounders, she “just knew” that he was her one true love and the man she wanted to walk up the aisle with. But when she showed him a picture of herself in preschool, he looked at it in shock. What he saw in the corner of the photo completely blew his mind.
Giberson grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she was in preschool, she had a crush on a little boy in her class. The cute kindergarten romance involved playing with the building blocks, eating lunch together and enjoying games of tag in the schoolyard. And although more than 30 years have passed since then, their teacher still remembers it well.
One-time owner and teacher at Sunshine Preschool, Diane Tar recalled the toddlers’ brief dalliance. She told PEOPLE in November 2015, “They had a blast with each other. It was a quiet, bashful romance. They liked each other from afar, it was a young love, like a sweet crush.”
As the kids were only three years old, however, this love affair wasn’t destined to last. Inevitably, Giberson and her toddler beau went their separate ways after they graduated kindergarten. And eventually Giberson moved away to university and forgot all about her preschool crush.
As she moved into adulthood, though, Giberson’s romantic life proved far from perfect. She had been hurt so often, in fact, that her friends began stepping in with advice, telling her to not be so full-on in her romances.
In November 2016 Giberson told Cosmopolitan, “People would tell me, ‘Don’t be so open, Amy. Don’t trust so easily.’ But if I stopped doing that, it wouldn’t be me. It’s just absolutely nuts that I [was] the tragically misguided girl who was always let down.”
By the time she turned 32, Giberson had returned to her hometown of St. Petersburg and felt ready to settle down. And to increase her chances of finding her dream man, she signed up to an online dating site. Then, her profile caught the attention of fellow St. Petersburg local, Justin Pounders.
Like Giberson, Pounders had recently returned to St. Petersburg, and he had a heartbreaking love story of his own. In 2012 his fiancée, Adrianne Roberts, was attacked and tragically killed the night before the couple were due to move in together. She was on her way home from farewell drinks with her roommate when the murderer struck.
Two years later, Pounders felt finally ready to move on from his devastating loss. So, he returned to St. Petersburg looking for love, and that is when he came across Giberson’s profile on the dating website. Both Pounders and Giberson felt an instant connection.
Pounders told PEOPLE in November 2015, “I saw her photo and for whatever reason was instantly drawn to her. She just had this great energy, you could tell. I can’t explain it, but I knew I had to get to know this girl.” Wasting no time, the pair arranged their first date.
On December 3, 2014, the two met for dinner at a restaurant. Giberson for one felt an immediate attraction. She told PEOPLE, “When we met up and we hugged, it was like I had known him my whole life.” Their connection was so strong, in fact, that their waiter marked the date on their dessert plate.
Giberson later told Cosmopolitan, “Not even halfway through dinner I found myself shivering because I was so excited. I remember telling myself, ‘I’m going to be having dinner with this man for the rest of my life.’” They began to meet up every day and quickly their love blossomed.
After two months of dating, Pounders made a confession. Giberson told Cosmopolitan, “Justin casually mentioned he always liked my name because his first crush was a girl named Amy in preschool. I joked and said, ‘Well it wasn’t me, so I don’t want to hear about this Amy.’”
A further month into their blooming relationship, Giberson noticed Pounders touching a scar on his forehead. He revealed that he had been playing on the monkey bars in preschool when he fell, cutting his head open. It was then that they discovered they had more in common than they first realized.
As it turned out, Pounders had attended Sunshine Preschool, the very same kindergarten Giberson went to 30 years earlier. They had known they both grew up close by, but since they didn’t know any of the same people, they didn’t believe their paths had ever crossed.
Excited at the coincidence, Giberson asked her mom to find the old photos from her preschool days. And when she showed them a group picture of the kindergarten class, just how closely their pasts connected became clear. There they were, sitting side by side.
Giberson told PEOPLE, “We asked our parents to dig up any preschool photos they had. Justin’s mom found a photo of the two of us together and I just started crying, I was ecstatic. I was the Amy he had liked all those years ago! It was definitely meant to be.”
A year after they met for the second time, Pounders planned a special surprise for Giberson. The couple appeared on The View, retelling their amazing story. Then, the cameras paid an unexpected visit to the preschool where they first met, where the students were holding up a sign that read, “Amy, will you marry me?”
Exactly a year later, Giberson became Mrs. Amy Pounders. They got hitched on November 18, 2016, at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. And so just like a real life fairytale, these newlyweds got their happily ever after, 30 years after they even knew it began in preschool.
The couple believes a higher power had a hand in their finding each other again, perhaps with Pounders’ former fiancée acting as his guardian angel. He told PEOPLE, “Someone or something definitely decided we weren’t supposed to reconnect until now.” And Giberson added, “If you keep an open heart and an open mind, you can find your true love. You just have to believe and have faith.”
But while Giberson and Pounders were unknowingly childhood sweethearts, teenager Stephanie Ray was sure of her feelings for boyfriend Blake Ward. The pair were a wonderful example of young love, in fact, until they were hit by a terrible reality. And in the middle of her ordeal, Stephanie was faced with an impossible decision that no one ever hopes they’ll have to make.
The heatwave of summer 2018 touched almost every region of the U.K., including Wales. So it’s not surprising that 16-year-old Blake Ward decided to go out for a swim in the sea one day. At the time, he was visiting the town of Tywyn in Gwynedd on a family trip.
Blake and two other teenagers from the same family had gotten into the water to try and cool off, but they soon ran into problems. You see, a strong current caught them and swept the teens out away from the shore. Yet it wasn’t clear at first that anything was wrong.
In fact, Stephanie’s mother, Rebecca Ray, explained that from a distance their shouts sounded like laughter. “We’d arrived on the Sunday and the weather had not been too good, so on Tuesday when the sun came out we headed for the beach. They were only five minutes ahead of us,” she told The Sun.
“When we got to the beach I could hear them shouting, and at first I thought it was screams of laughter,” Rebecca explained. “Then I said to my sister, ‘Are they in trouble?’ We dumped everything and ran over to the rocks.”
By the time the women got there, however, the teens needed more help than they could give. Consequently, the young swimmers had to be pulled from the water by Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers, who administered CPR. Blake was then flown to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Although Blake had coveted a military career – and had been in very good shape – he hadn’t been a good swimmer. And tragically his turmoil in the sea had left him with severe brain damage. So as his family stood next to his hospital bed, they had little hope of him surviving.
His mother and father had not taken the trip to the beach with the other family members and had not been there to witness the tragic events. They subsequently hurried to be by their son’s bedside.
As Blake lay in hospital, his girlfriend, Stephanie, rushed to be there too, determined to stay with her childhood sweetheart. Yet it was all for naught: doctors determined that Blake would not be able to recover and that his life-support machine should be switched off.
There was nothing left for Stephanie to do but climb into bed with her paramour and let him know that he wasn’t alone. It was the best way she could think of to say goodbye to the boy she loved. Someone captured the tender moment on camera, and afterwards the picture of the young lady in the hospital bed letting her boyfriend go was shared widely.
A subsequent Facebook post from Stephanie described Blake’s passing. “Today has been the hardest day for me, and it will be a day I will never be able to forget. As some of you may know, Blake was involved in a terrible accident on Tuesday.”
“We were told yesterday that Blake would never recover and his brain was too damaged,” Stephanie’s post read. “We had to make the hard decision of turning his machine off and [letting] him go. But just know Blake wasn’t in any pain, and he passed away with his family around him.”
After Blake passed away, tributes were made to remember this young man. Several people left flowers outside the school he attended in his home town of Dudley. Many people wrote notes and attached them alongside.
This included Stephanie, whose note was photographed and appeared online. “To my baby boy. I know you are in a better place and not in pain,” it said. “I’m gonna make you proud, I promise. We had our ups and downs, but we got through them. Love you, my precious angel, sleep tight.”
But the memorials didn’t end there. The headmistress of Blake’s school decided to honor the boy during a speech she gave to pupils, for instance. Considering the young man had only moved to Wolverhampton six months previously, it speaks to the impact that this tragic event had.
And while Blake may have later died, the coastguard and other emergency services had done their part to try and save him. Consequently, they tried to display their condolences by holding a flypast during a special event to celebrate his life.
Blake’s death was a tragic example of a life cut short far too soon. There was, however, a small silver lining that could offer some of his loved ones a modicum of comfort. At the special request of his family, some of Blake’s organs were donated to those in dire need.
This isn’t the first time that the area has suffered a tragedy as a result of drowning, either. When two girls got into difficulties back in 2015, 74-year-old Richard Guest died during a rescue attempt. Ultimately the girls were saved, but Guest never made it back.
Stephanie’s mother therefore argued that it was time for the beach to get adequate lifeguard cover. “We can hope that lessons can be learnt from this,” she told Cambrian News. “We hope it will help to get the proper people onto the beach so this will never ever happen again.”
That being said, it doesn’t look likely that the beach will be monitored more closely. The local council insists, in fact, that the funding isn’t available to bring RNLI lifeguards to the beach in question. A crowdfunding page for Blake’s wake promises, however, to use any excess as a donation to the air ambulance and others.