United Airlines employees delayed a flight out of Houston so a man could see his dying mother one last time. PHOTO: L. Chang, Wikimedia Commons
If United Airlines employees had not noticed Kerry Drake crying in the terminal, he would have missed his connecting flight, and probably never seen his mother alive again. Drake's mother was ill with rheumatoid arthritis, and recently her condition had worsened. On January 24th, Drake got the news that his mother was dying. He booked a flight from San Francisco, where he lives, to Houston, and then a connecting flight 40 minutes later from Houston to Lubbock, TX, where his mother was. The flight from Houston to Lubbock was the last of the day, and when Drake's flight out of San Francisco was delayed, there was no feasible hope of Drake making it to his mother that day.
Drake started crying, which got the attention of the United flight attendants. They brought him napkins and relayed his connecting flight info to the captain. Still, the plane wasn't going to land in Houston in time to make the connecting flight.
Finally in Houston, Drake went full speed to the gate of his connecting flight, just in case.
"I was still like maybe 20 yards away when I heard the gate agent say, 'Mr. Drake, we've been expecting you,'" he said.
The captain had radioed ahead and told the Lubbock crew about Drake's situation. They held the flight for him.
Sitting on the second airplane, and finally allowed to relax, having miraculously made his flight, Drake realized how much extraordinary help had brought him to that point. "I was overcome with emotion," he said.
He made it to the hospital in time to see his mother. "At one point she opened her eyes, and I think she recognized me," said Drake, who spent the night at the hospital. "Around 4 a.m. she had a real moment of coherence, a last rally. Although we didn't know it at the time, it was the last time."
She died that morning. Had Drake missed the flight to Lubbock, he would have had to wait until the next day to get to Lubbock, and he would never have seen his mother alive again. The United Airlines staff did something incredibly kind, and ultimately very simple, and for that Kerry Drake will always remember them.