An alert Navy sailor, an Amber Alert baby, and an uplifting ending
By DAVE RESS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: February 5, 2021
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The sky was just lightening with a few snowflakes swirling as Petty Officer Devyn Drake stopped by her apartment mailbox early Wednesday morning and spotted something out of the corner of her eye, by an outdoors stairway.
It was a infant car seat. She walked over, and spotted 3-month-old Vanessa Varrios-Dasilva in it.
“My heart sank,” Drake said. “That sweet little baby out there in the cold.”
She rushed the infant to her warm apartment, where her own 5-month old son was sleeping, waiting for her to come home from her overnight shift at Airborne Command and Control Squadron 120's hangar on Naval Station Norfolk.
“She smiled at me, I don’t think she had any idea what was going on,” Drake said. “I checked to be sure she was ok ... her cheeks were a little cold was all.”
As it turned out, Drake spotted Vanessa not long after the tiny baby had been left by the stairs.
As she learned later from one of the Chesapeake Police Department detectives, Vanessa had been in the back of her mom’s SUV when a thief took the car shortly before 6:30 a.m. The drive from Chesapeake at that time of day probably took 15 or 20 minutes; Drake found Vanessa about 6:50 a.m.
Drake called 9-1-1, and as firefighters and police officers sped to her apartment, tried seeing if any neighbors knew anything about the baby.
It was only after the firefighters came, checked Vanessa and took the baby to the hospital that Drake happened to check her cellphone — and spotted the Amber Alert.
“I saw her picture, and realized I’d found her and that she was safe,” Drake said. She immediately called the Chesapeake Police to let them know.
That, nearly as much as Drake’s response when she found Vanessa, impressed her C.O., Cmdr. Aaron Rybar.
It wasn’t only that she was observant and responded quickly to protect baby Vanessa from danger, but that she immediately put together the situation when she saw the Amber Alert and acted to help police reunite the baby and her mom, Rybar said
Her actions Wednesday morning, after her long overnight shift, earned her the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, for actions living up to the highest traditions of Naval service.
For Drake, meanwhile, it was an even more basic matter.
“I keep thinking about my five-month son and what I hoped someone would do if it ever happened to us.”