The Washington Times - September 17, 2008, 11:25AM

U.S. Airways Flight 1124: Destination Serendipity.

Charlotte, NC - If I wasn’t always convinced that everything happens for a reason, that all changed today.

Leaving San Antonio, Texas after covering Hurricane Ike, U.S. Airways flight 1046 was late getting to the gate, which meant possibly missing the connection in Charlotte, N.C., to Reagan National. Not only was the flight late upon arrival, it deposited me at the end of the airport which was a week away from anywhere. I’m speeding through the airport like hurricane winds in Galveston, Texas. Out of breath, the plane was leaving without me.

There in a wheel chair was Pat Sherman and next to me Ruby Holden, two passengers also on my flight from San Antonio. The woman at the gate is trying to get her paperwork in order while at the same time multi-tasking as she dealt with me out of breath, frantic, and asking that they bring back the jetway so we could board…

“But they said they would hold the plane…” I pleaded

“Sir I’m sorry…” she said while trembling and fumbling with the boarding receipts closing out the flight.

“Yeah but I ran across the entire airport, they put me so far away, our flight  was 20 minutes late!” as I stood there holding my boarding pass.

“Sir, the control tower told me I had to pull it, I had to pull it, I’m sorry”

“Yeah but…” when suddenly stopping me cold in a mid-whining sentence…

“Shut up! She’s doing the best she can, there’s nothing we can do about it!” there she stood, out of her wheelchair, glasses and light blue sweater, Pat an elderly woman  whose eyes were wide open, was trying to make sure everyone had some perspective.

Ruby standing near said “You’re old enough to be my grandmother, you can tell me to shut up” and the laughter broke out, and the tension eased and I looked at Pat and then at Ruby, then to the attendant at the gate still trying to get her job done and I wasn’t making it any easier.

Naturally an apology was in order and civility and coolness took over.


Pat came over to me and apologized for yelling and I apologized for being a jerk, and we all apologized to the poor woman at the gate who quickly re-booked us on another flight. “We’ll all get to D.C. together” Ruby said.

We got our new boarding  passes and a courtesy ride on a cart to our new gate, on the other side of the airport.

So here we are, three people who never met before, helping eachother, as I used my cell phone to make contact with Pat’s people to tell them she missed her flight. Sitting down to a little meal together we talked about our lives, and the experiences which would lead us three to be together here at the airport having a cup of coffee.

So let’s get a little perspective, when your life seems inconvenienced such as missing your flight: Pat lives in Galveston, Texas and she rode out Hurricane Ike at the Edgewater Retirement Community home where she lived…she was one of those unfortunate people who could not get out before the deadly hurricane, finally being rescued by her son, who put her on a plane to stay with friends in McLean, Virginia.

Ruby’s travels were disrpupted by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and her grandmother’s home in New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina just over three years ago, and knows of an elderly couple from Trinidad who at last contact two days before Hurricane Ike, have not been heard from in Baytown, Texas.

Landing in D.C. late in the evening there’s still no luck trying to contact Pat’s people. Her son’s phone has been busy for the last two hours, and we can’t get in touch with anyone she knows. She’s all alone here at the airport, with only a small carry-on luggage, and me and Ruby to help her. She was supposed to be met here by friends, but we can’t make contact, and Pat is visibly stressed, shaking, eyes watering a little behind glasses

She’s a sweet, grandmotherly type and she’s understandably scared. Driving her to her friend’s home is not possible because she doesn’t have the address, just a phone number which sends us to voice mail. If all else fails, we’ll get her into a nice hotel until we can find her people here. But we will not just leave her here.

As luck would have it, waiting at baggage claim #11, her friend Mary McCormick sees her and runs open arms to her and gives a long lost hug.  Pat is safe and will be just fine.

Ruby whose flights were affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, is back home now too, safe and sound, a little tired and weary from the long road home, but home nonetheless.

Sure we missed our connecting flight to Washington, but we caught the detour flight, destination serendipity!


Rod Lamkey Jr
Staff Photographer
The Washington Times