Twenty-something couple Matthew and Lindsey Fuller were excited to leave Utah and start their new life in Kansas. Matthew had secured a new job as a business systems analyst, which allowed them to put a down payment on a house. The young family had recently celebrated their son Henry’s second birthday. The future was bright.
The plan was to move from their rental in St. George, Utah to their new home in Wichita, Kansas, a 17-hour drive away. Matthew and his father-in-law, Mike, would drive the couple’s carefully packed possessions in Mike’s trailer. Lindsey and Henry would fly to their new home.
The first leg of Matthew and Mike’s road trip last May went off without a hitch — an uneventful ten-hour drive from the red sandstone cliffs of southwest Utah through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to Denver.
In Denver, Matthew and Mike rested overnight at a motel. But early the next morning, when Mike went out to the parking lot, his red trailer and truck were gone — stolen — and with it, Matthew and Lindsey’s entire material life.
“I felt terror,” said Matthew when he received a call from Mike. “It was a panicky feeling like, ‘Oh crap, what do we do now?” He texted Lindsey who was boarding a plane with her son in Salt Lake City.
“I had to get on the plane with Henry not knowing if we would have stuff to move into our home,” said Lindsey. “And then, I remembered the Apple AirTag on a suitcase in the trailer.”
The AirTag provided a glimmer of hope for the couple in a situation now fraught with anxiety and fear.
She checked her phone. The AirTag appeared on a map. She guided her husband and father to a residential neighborhood not far from the motel. But the thief must have had experience finding the tracking device. The luggage with the AirTag was left on the street next to a mailbox, no truck or trailer in sight.
Fortunately, that suitcase contained old letters from Lindsey’s grandparents and family photos — items they could never replace. Still, everything else the couple owned, and Mike’s truck and trailer, remained missing.
The men reported the theft to police, even contacted local media to help in the search effort. Empty handed, exhausted and full of anguish, Matthew and his father-in-law continued on their journey to Kansas. Matthew said this was his lowest point,a long drive eight hours eastward which he spent dwelling on the wrong done to his family.
Two days later, a fire investigator in Aurora, Colorado, called Matthew. By then, the Fullers had reunited in Wichita. The investigator found a burnt trailer and, after seeing a news story about the Fuller’s situation, determined the torched trailer was theirs. The Fuller family lost everything they owned.
“A punch in the guts is an understatement,” said Lindsey. “Not only was our stuff stolen, but people intentionally destroyed it all. It was hurtful.”
Besides the everyday items destroyed — the furniture, the kitchen appliances — the Fullers lost their wedding rings. Lindsey lost all of her childhood journals. Henry lost his toys and keepsake baby clothes. Matthew lost his father’s cherished University of Texas ball cap.
Lindsey’s sister, Cassidy, started a GoFundMe page, to help the family get back on their feet. Another family member started a registry for everyday items like bedding, pots and pans and cooking utensils. With the basics covered, Matthew and Lindsey thought about the unique items they lost, like the Mickey Mouse jack-o’-lantern they bought at Disney World on a family vacation the previous year.
“It was one of those things that was so sad to lose,” Lindsey recalled. “It was just a souvenir, but it had special memories attached to it from the trip we did as a family.”
Outside of an expensive return trip to Disney World, Matthew knew exactly where he could find the cherished Halloween decoration — Matthew found it on eBay. He bought the jack-o’-lantern and surprised Lindsey with it.
Matthew hunted for another treasure Lindsey lost in the fire, a bottle of her favorite perfume, Enchanted Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift. She had been wearing the fragrance since middle school.
“How do you replace the first four years of us being together with a whole new scent?” said Matthew. Slowly, he was finding items on eBay that mean something more to him and his family than mere possessions.
He found the vintage Pixar toy cars Henry enjoyed before the fire, the same die cast models Matthew played with growing up. The father bid and won an eBay auction for vintage stuffed toy pigs named Toot and Puddle, cartoon friends Matthew grew up with and wanted to share with his son. The father found another lost treasure, the University of Texas baseball hat, with the retro Longhorn logo — the same hard to come by cap from the days his father attended the school.
A happy Henry with Toot and Puddle—stuffed animals his father bought on eBay after a fire destroyed the child’s toys. Credit: Matthew Fuller.
The whole experience, said Matthew, from the total loss of the trailer and their belongings, to strangers sending donations, to the sellers on eBay offering the items the Fullers believed were gone forever, has been transformative and changed how he sees the world.
He now has a real appreciation for eBay sellers, borne of the incredible connections he created through the seller community. “It’s given me a new vision,” he said. “Sellers don’t necessarily know what a buyer is going through. A buyer may really need that item, and really appreciate it. That item may positively impact other people’s lives.”
In the end, after all the stress and anxiety of losing so much, Lindsey felt lucky and grateful for the support she and her family received. Losing everything helped her and her husband determine what’s most important to them.
“Replacing certain toys and Halloween decor and hats with eBay finds, the things we missed, stuff that is important to us has been a positive experience,” she said. “We could focus on what we wanted to replace, and what we can live without.”