A guardian angel

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August 22, 2011

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August 22nd, 2011
To: Horizon Airlines
Re: Christine G***, our guardian angel

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter to ensure that a Horizon employee who went above and beyond the call of duty today is given the special recognition she so justly deserves: Ms. Christine G***, working out of Calgary, Alberta.

Backstory: my 8 year old son, Ben, is on the Autism spectrum and traveling is never easy for him (nor for me as a result.) Any change in his daily routine is very difficult for him to adjust to, and when you add large crowds, loud noises and big line-ups at an airport, it’s incredibly rough on him (and for me, as a result.)

On Friday, August 19th we were flying out of Calgary, returning home to California, and unfortunately the line up to go through customs was incredibly long. Ben was already having a tough time and this long wait was very difficult and frustrating for him, not understanding why we couldn’t just walk on up and through the doors. He kept trying to do so (with me calling out & chasing after him when he walked away from me & his brother, still waiting in line) and into the Nexus/special needs line (something I wish I knew had existed before today.)

He ended up right in front of Christine G***, who was pushing a lady in a wheelchair up the special needs aisle. Ms. G*** called out, “Beep beep beep” to give Ben a head’s up that he was in the way, However, and most regrettably, I thought I heard her speaking sharply at my son to get out of the way (likely a result of the loud noises all around us and, admittedly, my own frazzled brain trying to keep an ASD kid focused and calm in the midst of the chaotic world around him.) As a result, I snapped at Christine, barking out, “Ma’am – don’t yell at my son. He’s Autistic!” as I pulled Ben back into line with us.

Her immediate reaction caused my heart to sink: her eyes went wide, the surprise and pained look in her eyes evident as she responded, “Sir, I did not yell at your son… I didn’t yell…” and I realized I had made a mistake: she did not yell at my Ben, and my frustration with the day caused me to lash out at her in error.

Ben got even more upset after this, running away from me and curling up in the corner (undoubtedly as a result of hearing his father lose his cool and raise his voice, something I should know better than to do when he’s already frazzled.) While walking to get back in line after retrieving him, Christine showed her true colors when she asked me (note that this is immediately after I had snapped at her) “if we wanted to follow her and her guest, she would lead us down the ‘special needs’ line.”

I readily accepted, and quickly apologized for my outburst. She was gracious and understanding, telling me I needn’t worry in the least and letting me know that, in the future, I could coordinate with whatever airline I was flying to ensure we didn’t have to wait in such huge line-ups.

We made it through customs, only to find that the line-up for security was almost as long as the one we just passed. Unbelievably, and most fortuitously, Christine was again right behind us and instructed us to follow her again and she’d help expedite our passage through security…which she did, bringing us to the front of the line so we could quickly get through and my son could avoid his (now imminent) total meltdown.

Once we cleared security, I instructed Ben to go give Christine a big hug and say thank you, which he did. And then I did the same, with tears welling up in my eyes, thanking her profusely and telling her she was “our hero” for the day.

And she was. Not only did she handle being (falsely) accused of snapping at a special boy by his highly-sensitive father, but she then took that same family through two giant line-ups and helped us avoid a huge meltdown by my son.

I must have thanked her 10 times, but that’s nowhere near enough to express the sincerity of my gratitude – not only for her understanding of my snapping at her, but most notably for taking the time and showing the genuine concern and empathy for my son to help us like she did… and doing this all with a smile on her warm, caring face.

I literally was crying tears of happiness and gratitude once we walked away from her at security and immediately realized that she had helped restore my faith in humanity. As the father to a special needs child, it’s all too easy to feel (and/or imagine) the stares of unknowing passer-bys who can’t possibly understand why your child is throwing a tantrum about wanting to go to a bathroom, and to assume everyone just thinks you’re a pushover of a parent. Today was honestly the first time I snapped at someone I felt was being rude or ignorant to my son, and unbelievably, it turns out I was mistaken… yet this same person saw through my mistake and helped us out when I/we needed it most.

Christine G*** is truly an amazing person, someone who goes way past the extra mile to help others, and I hope that she can be the deserving recipient of any employee recognition programs you may have. Even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes once again as I think about the help and genuine kindness she showed us today.

I am forever, forever grateful. Thank you Christine – you are one of my absolute favorite people in the entire world.

Most sincerely,

Blaine W.

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