Austin Man Reunites Family With VHS Tape Of Baby's First Steps

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TyRe Alexander and Jim McKay meet on the set of the Today show. (Courtesy TyRe Alexander)
TyRe Alexander and Jim McKay meet on the set of the Today show. (Courtesy TyRe Alexander)

Filmmaker Jim McKay, who lives in Cedar Park, Texas, just outside of Austin, was on the hunt for a VCR, when he came across the defunct device at a local Goodwill store.

"I was looking for props for a video project, actually, that was going to be set in the '90s," Jim said.

He had the VCR in his house for about a year before he could use it. Jim said the appliance sat in the living room, gathering dust, as the project was tabled.

But that all changed when he noticed a neighbor putting out an old television set for bulk trash pickup. He brought the TV inside, and using connector cables he found at a local pawn shop, he plugged in the VCR. As soon as he pressed play, a tape popped out.

"My first thought was, 'whoa, this is not an old Blockbuster movie that somebody forgot to return,'" Jim said. "My curiosity was absolutely piqued. I had no idea what I was going to find, but I put it in there, I pressed play ... and it just opens in this scene of a family having this really wholesome time, which I soon discovered was they set the camera up to capture the baby's first steps. And as I watched, they got it. It was the most amazing video."

The label on the tape said "TyRe learns to walk," along with the date 1994. There was no address, no phone number and no last name. Jim, who's a father himself, says he knew immediately how meaningful the tape's content was. He was determined to return it to the family in the video.

"It's like if I found someone's wallet, I'd absolutely try to return it because it's important," said Jim. "It was the same thing. I just knew that I had to at least give it a shot."

Being a filmmaker, Jim decided to make a short, 2-minute video and post it on his Facebook and YouTube pages.

He asked his friends, family and followers to share the video so that, perhaps, someone could help him find the family. But Jim was not prepared for what happened next: The story went viral.

"It got something like 33,000 shares on Twitter," Jim said. "By the next morning, this thing was literally everywhere."

The story was picked up by local and national news stations. People started to reach out to Jim with clues and hints that could help him find the family in the video. After two days, Jim finally got the message he'd been waiting for.

"I have my phone in my hand, and I get a notification on my phone: 'Hey, that's me,'" Jim said. He was floored.

The baby in the video was TyRe Alexander, a 26-year-old educator and aspiring director living near Austin, Texas. TyRe said he was out with friends when he got a surprising phone call from his mother. She happened to be watching the news as the video of her son came on.  She immediately called TyRe and sent him screenshots.

"So we got off the phone, I look at the screenshots, and sure enough, there's a video of me with a whole bunch of Afro puffs on my head, walking in the diaper across the screen," said TyRe.

As TyRe and his friends bar-hopped that night, he said everyone around him was talking about the video.

"And every time we would hear somebody talk about the video, my friends would be like, 'It's him right here! It's him right here!'" TyRe said.

It wasn't until TyRe and Jim traveled to New York City for the Today show that the two were able to meet face-to-face.

Jim says meeting TyRe was surreal.

"Oh, my gosh, I was scared stiff," Jim says. "This guy is actually an amazing person. He works with kids. He's a mentor, he's doing all kinds of great things in his life. He's turned out to be a pretty awesome guy."

TyRe said it meant a lot to regain such a precious family treasure, especially as he moves forward on to new ventures. He's starting his own YouTube channel and will soon head to basic training and officer candidate school for the Army.

"That's a very heartwarming, loving video," TyRe said. "I finally got to see my first steps, because I've taken so many more first steps in life and I just love that I was able to see myself fall and get back up. It was very motivating for me."

Jim says this has become a pivotal moment in his life and one that's helped him reflect on how a simple act can have massive ripples.

"What I've taken away is that to make anything happen, all you have to do is try," Jim said. "If you just take that one extra step, you know, you'd really be surprised at what can come of it.

Andrea Asuaje Reporter/Producer, Kind World
Andrea Asuaje was a reporter and producer in WBUR’s iLab, where she made Kind World.



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