This past week I was on a four and a half hour, non-stop flight from Seattle, Washington, to Atlanta, Georgia. In all my years of traveling, I have learned that each time a plane has the opportunity to stop, there is potential for unexpected challenges. Flight delays, weather and airline crews can create unanticipated challenges on any trip. Therefore, I always try to fly non-stop between my destinations.
About an hour into this particular flight, the Captain's voice rang over the intercom. He asked if there was a physician or nurse on the plane. If so, he asked them to identify themselves by ringing the flight attendant call button beside their seat.
I listened carefully but heard no one ring their bell. I immediately began to wonder what was happening.
In a few minutes the Captain informed us that there was a medical emergency on board and asked again if there was a physician or a nurse who could help. When there was no response, we were told that we were going to make an emergency stop in Denver, Colorado. He apologized but told us that there would be a medical emergency team waiting to meet us at the gate and that we would probably only be delayed by about thirty minutes. Though it was necessary, we knew we would all be inconvenienced by the extra stop. About half an hour later, we landed at Denver
International Airport and the medical crew immediately came on board. However, everything took longer than had previously been expected. An elderly gentleman, about 85 years old, had suddenly taken ill. It was not clear whether he had experienced a stroke or heart attack.
Even after the gentleman was carried off of the plane, we still sat there for quite a while. The original "short" stop turned into about an hour and a half.
When we finally pushed back from the gate and were in the air, the pilot apologized profusely for the unavoidable delay. He said that since the stop had taken longer than expected, those passengers who needed to make connections in Atlanta would miss their flights but would automatically be booked on the next flight out.
You could almost hear the moans and groans throughout the airplane of everyone who was being inconvenienced by the unexpected stop.
Then the pilot did one of the classiest things I have personally ever seen or heard anyone do. He spoke into the intercom and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I thought you might be interested in one bit of information. The elderly gentleman who was taken off the plane was a Marine in WWII. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and it was signed by President Harry Truman in 1945." The pilot went on to say, "I realize that we have all been inconvenienced today. However, in light of the fact that this gentleman was a war hero and was inconvenienced for four years of his life in order that we might experience the freedoms that we enjoy today,I thought you all should know that."
Immediately the airplane was filled with applause. Everyone was cheering and so pleased to know that the gentleman had been cared for in a way that was fitting and appropriate.
As we continued to fly, I thought to myself, "Isn't that interesting? We were concerned that we were inconvenienced for a couple of hours and yet, this gentleman's entire life was interrupted and inconvenienced for over four years while he went and fought in a war to protect the freedoms and values that we love and hold dear in this country today." I breathed a prayer for the gentleman and blessed him for all he had done to help us understand what freedom is all about.