The Purpose of Southwest Airlines is to connect People to what’s important in their lives. Our Employees take that Purpose to Heart, and are empowered to do the right thing. Yesterday, Customer Laura Berg contacted us requesting assistance in reconnecting with our Flight Crew who, on a rainy day in 2008, led with their heart and created an irreplaceable impact in her life. The following post is Laura’s heartfelt story.
Dear Ms. Southwest,
It’s been nearly seven years and I want to tell you that you will forever have a special place in my heart and I don’t even know your name!
On August 12, 2008, I was on your flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa.
My husband, 2 ½ year old daughter, and I were vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale. While we were eating breakfast in a diner, my cell phone rang. I was on vacation, so I didn’t answer. And then, I realized that the people who have my cell phone number are people who know me. Most of them knew I was on vacation and wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. I checked the message; it was my cousin Denise, asking me to call her immediately. My heart sank. I knew something was wrong. I walked out to the parking lot and returned her call. She told me my mom was in the hospital with only hours to live and that I needed to make it home. No one is ready to hear this kind of news – no matter what their relationship with their mother might be. All I could think was, my mom? My best friend? The woman I talk to every single day, my confidant, my rock? Thirty-three years and she was just going to leave me? I was filled with dread, panic, and overwhelming grief.
The next few hours were a blur. We raced to the hotel, grabbed our stuff and searched for the best flight back to Toronto. I managed to talk to my mom during this flurry of activity. The only thing I remember was asking her to wait, to not leave this earth without me. She promised she would.
My husband tried to get us the earliest flight back home. It was already 11 am. The best direct flight had us landing in Toronto at 10 pm. Finally, my husband found a flight that would get us to Buffalo at 7 pm (our car was in in Buffalo thankfully). Flying to Buffalo then driving, would get me to my mom faster than flying into Toronto.
Florida is great – except for its thunderstorms. We needed to catch a 20-minute flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa so that we could make our connecting flight to Buffalo. Enter thunderstorms. All flights grounded. As we waited at the airport, I paced and prayed and cried and paced and prayed and cried some more. Please let the thunderstorms stop. I need to be with my mom! Finally, the gate opened and we were on our way. And this, Ms. Southwest, is where you entered my life. You took the time to acknowledge my weeping as I held my little girl. You asked what was wrong and I hiccuped and sobbed my way through the story.
Ms. Southwest, I know you were just doing your job, but it meant the world to me that you came and talked to me. You asked about our ultimate destination. You helped us get settled on the first leg of our journey. You brought me a box of tissues. That little squeeze you gave my shoulder? It meant the world to me.
As I sat there holding my box of Kleenex an announcement came over the PA letting us know that the plane could not take off due to more thunderstorms. I was destroyed. Checking my watch, I saw the minutes slipping away along with our chances of catching our connecting flight. In my sadness I kept hearing more words, informing my fellow passengers of delays and cancelled flights. As the announcements rolled on and the minutes ticked by I knew I wouldn’t reach Tampa on time to catch the plane that could get me home to my mom. Finally the word came that we were cleared for take off. As I looked at my watch I saw that my connecting flight in Tampa was leaving at that exact time. I missed it. I missed the flight that could get me home to say goodbye to my Mom. I was so close! It was only a short hop, skip, and jump over to Tampa. Why?! Why did this have to be happening to me. I closed my eyes and prayed for my mom to please wait.
Just then you came back to me. You again gently leaned over to me and I’ll never forget your words. You said, “We called ahead to the Pilot in Tampa and told him about your situation and he’s holding the plane for you.”
They were holding the plane for us!
When we got to Tampa you asked everyone to remain seated so we could get off the plane and get on our connecting flight – and they did. Your Southwest colleagues were waiting to help us run to the next plane.
Thanks to you and your efforts (and those of the other staff and pilots) I MADE IT! I made it home to my mom. It was all BECAUSE OF YOU. It was late when we reached the hospital, but my mom kept her promise and waited for me. She had fallen into a coma by the time I got there, but she was still alive. I curled up in bed with her and took her into my arms. I whispered in her ear that I was with her, that I loved her, that I was so thankful she was my mom. I told her that it was okay for her to go. I had my husband and daughter and I would be taken care of. I told her that I would make her proud. I held her and loved her completely until she took her last breath in my arms.
I have no way of reaching you personally, Ms. Southwest. This will have to do for now. My only hope is this letter somehow finds you so you know that you are appreciated and loved. What you do makes a difference – in my case a BIG difference. I hope someday, when you most need it, someone will show you the extreme kindness you showed to my family and me.
With love and gratitude,
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
See Laura’s original post and online blog here.