The trip to Haiti in December 2009 was with our largest mission team to date. Nine of us travelled from Memphis to Miami, where we were to meet the rest of our team. Three folks were coming from North Carolina and three from New Orleans. When we landed in Miami, there was some confusion because a few bags had been checked all the way through to Port au Prince, while the rest of us had to collect our suitcases at baggage claim and check them again at the American Airlines ticket desk. By the time we all made it upstairs, the ticket agent curtly informed us that we were too late to make the flight to Haiti. The flight was scheduled to leave at 2:05 PM, and one hour advance check in time was required. It was now 1:07 PM. I began complaining bitterly and loudly that we HAD to be on that flight. My protests were met with a cold stare from the agent, who declared that we were at fault for arriving so late to the desk. At this point another agent, Mr. Hazell, had joined the argument. I was explaining that we were on a medical mission trip with nine people travelling together, and he offered to put us on the plane the NEXT DAY to Port au Prince. I was about to reach across the desk and yank his jacket over his head, when John Mutin spoke up gently and said, “Thank you for helping us.” “What do you mean,” I retorted, “he’s not helping us, he’s putting us on the plane TOMORROW!” John kept repeating “Thank you”, while I tried to get hold of myself. Meanwhile, at another spot at the desk a few feet away, Drew Woodruff was trying to explain why his ticket had been issued in the name “Drew Verger” and his passport said his name was “Drew Woodruff”. Miraculously, Mr. Hazell booked us on the 2:05 flight and instructed us to RUN to the gate after checking our bags through security. RUN we did; at one point I ran out of my shoes, literally, and had to run back to retrieve them. I ran the rest of the way barefoot.
As we arrived at the gate, they were boarding the plane. I spotted our New Orleans group and waved to them at the front of the line. I was panting and sweating and grateful. I had not seen our North Carolina group; in fact I didn’t even know what all of them looked like since we had not met prior to our trip. I hoped they had made the flight and figured we would find each other at the airport in Port au Prince. Most of all, I was grateful to my friend, John Mutin, for preventing me from being carried out of the airport on assault charges.
PS I later wrote a letter of thanks to American Airlines on behalf of Mr. Hazell. They thanked me for my comments.