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Emily Proctor was in tears at the airport. She had missed a connecting flight on her way to Florida, to visit her best friend in a time of need. There were no other flights going out that night. Then a family on her earlier flight took it upon themselves to look after her.
Emily tells her story as part of WBUR's Kind World.
EMILY PROCTOR: My best friend is Samantha. She's from Florida. She had had some issues with her husband that were just not turning out very well, and her mother actually recognized the difficulty she was having and understood that if I could come and visit and spend a couple days talking to her and helping her sort things out, she might be a lot better for it. So her mother purchased the tickets for me to fly down and see her.
We flew out in a thunderstorm and it was rainy and thundering most of the way to Charlotte. When we arrived in Charlotte, our flight had been delayed so much that there were no additional flights going out for the rest of the night. I became very upset. I burst into tears.
It only took a minute or two before I felt an arm go around my shoulders from behind. It was a woman that we had flown into Charlotte on the same flight with and she said, "Don't worry. You're with us now. It's all gonna be OK."
I was very startled. I think I cried harder when she said it, because I immediately felt less alone. Deb and Mark were heading to Orlando with their two teenage daughters. We all sat down, got comfortable, and started chatting. They treated me immediately as though I was a family member and they'd known me all their lives.
As the night went on, the girls and I became very tired. And it was clear that Mark and Deb were tired as well, but they told the three of us to go to sleep, and they would watch over us while they slept. So I crawled under a bank of chairs and curled up with my bag and slept while this family watched over me.
In the morning, after we'd gone through security, we were informed that there was a flight to Orlando, Fla., which was our original destination. That flight had four open seats, which was enough for Deb, Mark, and their daughters. When they were presented with this option, Deb and Mark declared that they would not be taking that flight to Orlando, because they would have to leave me behind. I did tell them that it was OK if they wanted to go, but Deb was very clear that they had committed to helping me, that I was part of their family for the day, and they weren't going to leave part of their family behind.
We flew into Tampa, and Deb and Mark opted to rent a car and drive to Orlando. My friend's mother had come to pick me up and was waiting for me in Orlando when we arrived. When I left Deb and Mark and the girls, there were tears, and a lot of hugs, and promises to stay in touch. It would have been worth the trip if the same thing had happened on the way home, because Samantha got the help that she needed, we got to spend the time together that we wanted, and she came out of the weekend feeling better about her situation and herself.
This family was an inspiration to me, and they remain so every day. They didn't know me. They didn't know anyone I knew. They came out of nowhere. Every time I think about what we went through together, I'm reminded that the simplest act on my part can make a huge difference in someone else's life.
Kind World is produced by Zack Ezor, Lisa Tobin and Nate Goldman, and is a project of the WBUR iLab, examining the profound effect that one act can have on our lives.
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