On September 9, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation enacting Chelsea's Law, the law targeting sexual predators. A rain had just passed through making for a crystal clear day at Balboa Park.
Kelly King, Chelsea's mother, was at the ceremony wearing a bright yellow dress, perhaps symbolic of a rare bright moment. It was the culmination of an agonizing and heartbreaking seven months for the King family.
Later that day, I had the opportunity to interview Brent and Kelly King. Remember, it was a monumental day for them. Kelly King greeted me with a warm hug and said:
"Are you remembering to put on your sun screen?"
Kelly's off-the-wall question actually made perfect sense to me. It also spoke volumes about her as a kind-hearted, warm, caring person - despite the unspeakable tragedy in her life.
And here's why. This is the story of how I first met Kelly King.
Just before Christmas 2009, I had to have a mole removed from my back. 'Routine' says the doctor.
It's always routine, except when it's happening to you.
So I'm in the room waiting for a slice that will eventually earn me 25-stitches, and in walks the Medical Assistant. She's really nice, but the tray she's holding with needles, scalpels and other assorted tools of the trade, seem to betray her kindness.
Maybe she sensed my anxiety. I happened to be wearing running sweat pants and my brand spankin' new pair of New Balance 904's. She asked me if I was a runner and it led to a calming conversation.
She went on to tell me her daughter was a big runner. We then started comparing 'daughter' stories. Clearly, she had an incredible bond with her daughter. She was one proud mother.
The procedure went fine. I lived to see another day. Of course, some are brighter than others.
The next time I saw this kind woman was a few weeks later, on Feb. 26, 2010. She was at the Rancho Bernardo Recreation Center, pleading for the safe return of the beloved daughter she had told me about weeks earlier.
Her daughter's name was Chelsea. The Medical Assistant was Kelly King. It was devastating.
Month's later Kelly King told me she recognized me in the crowd of reporters. At that moment, she said she knew what was happening was real -- and terrifying.
Soon after the meeting at the rec center, I interviewed Brent and Kelly King formally for the first time. It was about an hour before they arrested John Gardner. They had no idea of the news to come.
Kelly hugged me, and I'll be damned if she didn't say, "How's your back?"
I've gotten to know Kelly and Brent King a little better over the months that have passed. We've exchanged a few e-mails. I've shared a personal essay about my running with them.
I saw Kelly King again on Friday, the day before Chelsea's 5k. The sun was out, a far cry from the weather the Kings have been experiencing outside of Chicago, where they now live.
Of course, she asked me about my sunscreen.