In late November 2015, Kristal Southern got the surprise of her life while watching the 11 o’clock news. It wasn’t the news itself, but the sight of the reporter that caused her stomach to drop. He was her first love — Shomari Stone.
In preparation for an early morning run the next day, Kristal had flipped to NBC4 Washington to catch the weather forecast. She would usually check her phone, but her mother had been urging her to catch the nightly news.
“Everything you need to know will be on in the first 15 minutes,” Kristal’s mother often said.
Kristal, a veterinarian with the Waldorf Animal Clinic and a lead surveillance epidemiologist with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, turned up the volume and was walking to the kitchen when a deep, distinctive voice stopped her in her tracks.
In disbelief, she quickly returned to the television for a closer look. She immediately recognized the face and thick eyebrows. He had shaved his black, curly hair, but his smile was the same. Could it really be him?
Kristal inched closer to the screen. Underneath the familiar face was a caption: Shomari Stone. She was stunned.
She was even more shocked when she noticed his location, Washington, D.C. “I thought I was tripping, that there had to be something wrong with me,” Kristal says. “I’m like, ‘You have to be kidding me!’ ”
Kristal, 36, and Shomari, 39, first met as teenagers in Detroit in 1993. Introduced by a neighborhood friend, they lived five minutes apart. They bonded over mutual interests, and a romantic relationship soon formed. Dates consisted of grabbing a bite at the local Dunkin’ Donuts and challenging each other to hoops.
Shomari, says Kristal, was her first crush, her first kiss and her first boyfriend. “He set the baseline for everybody else,” she says.
They dated for eight months, but their relationship was cut short when Shomari moved to California in ninth grade to go to boarding school. Kristal was crushed. “There were a lot of tears, on both ends,” she recalls.
For a year, the pair exchanged letters and phone calls. “This is before social media, mind you,” Shomari says. “We didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine or any of that.”
Eventually, they lost contact. Shomari attended the University of Michigan and pursued his dream of becoming a TV reporter, covering stories in Florida, Washington state and, ultimately, the District in 2011. Kristal fulfilled her long-held ambition of attending Tuskegee University in Alabama, then became a veterinarian and moved to Washington in 2005.
Neither of them had a clue the other lived in the city. “I could have honestly ran right past him and it wouldn’t have clicked,” Kristal says. “Even if I had seen his face pass by on the side of a bus, it wouldn’t have registered.”
After catching Shomari’s broadcast, Kristal decided to shoot him a short Facebook message. “It took me an hour to write it,” she says. “I thought, ‘He’s not going to even remember who I am!’ He’s going to think, ‘Who is this groupie? Who is this fan girl?’ ”
Thankfully, he did remember, but he was worried that this blast from the past was too good to be true.
“I was amazed and a little nervous,” Shomari confessed. “At first, I thought it was a joke. But she said some things that were so precise, like our address and the neighborhood, that it obviously couldn’t have been a catfish.”
Shomari, who was divorced, was still getting adjusted to dating in D.C. and didn’t want to get his hopes up too quickly. A day later, he called Kristal.
As soon as he heard her voice, he knew she was the real deal. “I didn’t know if it was a con or a joke, but when I got her on the phone, I was stunned,” he says. “It was the same voice.”
That night, they met for dinner at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring. Both were worried about what might unfold and whether there would still be a spark. But the conversation was easy and the connection immediate.
“I remember he came up to me, gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, ‘It’s really you,’ ” Kristal says. With his warm welcome, her nerves vanished.
“When he walked in, I just felt something come over me. It was like, ‘If he wants to be with me, I know I want to be with him,’ ” she says. “I didn’t want to rush into something based on nostalgia, but a part of me just knew that this was right.”
It took no time at all, Shomari says, for things to fall into place. Within a month, they were dating exclusively. Kristal bonded with Shomari’s two young children during Snowzilla, taking care of them while Shomari covered the storm.
“Over time, people change due to their life experiences, but Kristal is still the same exact person today, in terms of her heart and the way in which she treats others,” Shomari says.
On a blustery, rainy day this March, the two boarded the VIP gondola on the Capital Wheel at National Harbor. At the top of the 180-foot-tall Ferris wheel, overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, Shomari dropped to one knee, pulled out a sapphire engagement ring and proposed. “Of course!” Kristal excitedly replied.
On July 3, Shomari and Kristal exchanged vows before a small group of family and friends at Seasons 52 restaurant in North Bethesda, Md.
“We knew we didn’t want a big wedding and didn’t want to be engaged for five years. We had already waited 23,” Kristal says, laughing. “I was ready to get my ‘happily ever after’ as soon as possible.”
During the ceremony, the couple exchanged wedding bands made by Kristal’s mother that were engraved with the phrase “My first. My last. My forever.”
Reflecting on their serendipitous reunion, Shomari expressed gratitude and encouraged others to never give up hope. “You just never know,” he said after the wedding. “Your love could be right around the corner and could pop up out of nowhere.”
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