Scott Gilbert and Cristi Williams
Cristi and Hayley Williams
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- More than 30 years ago at Five Forks Middle School in Gwinnett County, a romance blossomed. It was a time when bodies were changing a lot faster than minds. And in the midst of all that transformation, an 11-year-old boy's heart opened up.
"She had a beautiful smile," Scott Gilbert said. "I think I had a crush on almost as soon as I saw her."
The girl was Cristi Williams, Scott's classmate. The two 'dated', briefly. Cristi said it was "For about a week or two weeks." She said a girlfriend had a crush on Scott so she stepped aside. After seventh grade, Cristi moved away. The two saw each other a few times over the years, then lost contact altogether.
"I never saw or heard from him again, for 23 years." In those 23 years Scott and Cristi married other people. Scott had two daughters.
Cristi had one daughter, Haley Williams, the lead singer of the rock band Paramore and a Grammy nominee for her hit song "Airplanes," with Atlanta's own B.o.B. and Eminem.
Scott and Cristi divorced.
One year ago, Scott said, "I friended her."
Their Facebook friendship become a real life romance. Living out of state, Scott and Cristi came back to Atlanta to visit friends, or so Cristi thought. Scott suggested they stop by the school where it all began.
Principal Mary Hensien and her staff were all in on the plan. Hensien offered to give Cristi and Scott an impromptu tour of the school. As they entered the media center, Cristi saw the TV cameras and the principal told her 11Alive News was there for story on the new facility.
Cristi paid no attention to our crew who was trying to look nonchalant and bored. But as Cristi neared a chosen spot in the room, music from their favorite song began to play and our cameras moved in closer.
Cristi realized she is not at the school to visit her past; she's about to step into her future.
Scott got down on one knee as Cristi shook her head in disbelief and covers her mouth.
Scott said, "I love you and I want to marry you. Will you be my wife?" Cristi said yes and the two embraced. No sooner is her diamond ring on her finger then well wishers appear, two former teachers from 30 years ago.
Cristi said, "Even though we're far from here now, this was the right place to be, to start over again. I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other place."
It's a long way back to those yesterdays in middle school, but Cristi and Scott believe the core of who they were as children, remains.
"We're the same," Scott said. "One of the things we talked to our kids a little bit about was the person you knew when you were young in school growing up, can still be that person today. Twenty five years later that can still be the same person."
It may have taken more than 30 years, but because Scott and Cristi never lost who they were. They found each other.