CLEVELAND - On the evening of May 6, 2013, the world seemed to stop as two of the biggest stories in the last decade in Cleveland, the disappearance of Amanda Berry in 2003 and Gina DeJesus in 2004 were mutually solved at once as we got word the girls had been found alive along with a third woman named Michelle Knight. They had been held captive all this time in a house on Seymour Avenue by a man named Ariel Castro.
I arrived on Seymour Avenue not long after as our photographers were working to set up our truck so I could go live with this breaking news I began immediately surveying the street for family members that I knew from covering the annual vigils for the girls who went missing as teens, now in their 20s.
It was then I heard the voice of Charles Ramsey, he was telling those around him how he heard screaming from his neighbor Ariel Castro's house as a woman, Amanda Berry, was trying to kick her way out from behind a locked screen door. He would run up onto the porch and pull the door open enough for her to escape and call 911.
As we were about to go live for the first time from the street Charles was right behind me and I pulled him in. "I heard screaming, I was eating my McDonalds, I come outside and I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of her house" he started. An internet sensation was about to be born.
His "I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a black man's arms. Dead giveaway," would soon be played and replayed over and over again all over the world with the interview turning into an auto-tuned song that went viral overnight.
In the last year alone, that 2:56 interview has been viewed more than 50 million times. Looking back five years later, Ramsey isn't surprised.
"We made America smile again, because up until May 5th there wasn't nothing going on on this planet," he said as we set on the steps of his home in an east side suburb.
For the first anniversary of the rescue, Ramsey released his book "Dead Giveaway," for the second he was still making the television rounds as Amanda and Gina released their joint book but as the third anniversary came around Ramsey said he didn't want to talk and for the last three years he says he's been doing a lot of reading and following the advice of a close friend.
"She said you know what? You need to get back to where you were before you found them girls, humble, working," he recalled being told. "'That rock star s**t, save that for the rock stars.' So that's what I've been doing, staying out of the way, no Facebook, no instagram, no twitter. I've alienated myself."
His readings have been spiritual, "The Forgotten Books of Eden," among others trying to understand the origins of the evil that he says lived in his former neighbor Ariel Castro.
"Something just said watch him and watch him and watch him and I thought my paranoia was getting the best of me." He said he would leave his job at Hodge's Restaurant where he was a dishwasher with a sick feeling. "When I hit the top of the damn street I would start crying."
He returned to see the Castro house after it was torn down a few months later but not since. He said he harbors resentment towards his old neighbors who Ramsey has always felt were aware something was up.
"My attitude won't let me go to Seymour," he said. "So I stay away from it."
"You knew that I was on to something, that's why you blew me off and changed the subject and kept me away from Ariel Castro every time I brought his name up."
Ramsey has had basically no contact Amanda or Gina and very little with Michelle in recent years but he says he'd like to at some point.
"I thought about it for five years like why don't we have lunch, why haven't we had dinner," he said. "But what I would like to see is your pupils, I'd like to see that you don't have any cuts and bruises on your ears and what not, nobody's mistreating you," he said invoking another familiar Ramsey refrain "I'm a man, God gave me testicles for a reason."
Ramsey's plug of McDonald's in the initial live interview netted him free burgers for a year from the chain, which Ramsey said didn't last very long.
"They gave me $2,000 in McDonald's gift cards, they gave me 20 cards with $100 on each card," he said. "I gave them to every homeless person I can find, they got wind of that, I can't get no more free McDonalds now."
What he does get is recognized, no matter where he is and for what he did on Seymour Avenue.
"Oh yeah, that's why I wear shades right now, not cause it's sunny. It could be 12 o'clock at night and I go to the gas station - 'hey you that dude.'"