CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD)— A story of generosity at Gerald R. Ford International Airport is going viral.
The day before Thanksgiving, Laura Genovich got a call saying that her mom had a stroke.
Genovich lives in Grand Rapids while her parents live in Florida.
In a blog, Genovich wrote that at first, they didn’t know how bad her mom’s condition was; she had been talking to the nurses by phone every few hours.
Friday morning when the nurse told her that her mom might never wake up, Genovich knew she had to make it down to Florida.
Within 30 minutes of talking with the nurse, Genovich packed up her 3-month-old baby Audrey and had her husband and two older children drop them off at the airport. She got a ticket and boarded an American Airlines flight to Orlando.
That is when things started to take a turn.
After taking her seat on the plane, Genovich was told the aircraft needed maintenance. Genovich said she spent the entire time waiting to take off on the phone with relatives, talking to them about her mom’s health and the fact that she probably was not going to make it to Florida.
After sitting there for an hour, the crew announced the plane was grounded for repairs.
”I broke down crying and called my husband, devastated that I probably would not make it to my mom’s bedside that day,” Genovich wrote.
When Genovich got off the phone, an airport angel stepped in.
In the seat in front of her, a woman turned around and said, “My name is Mary. I’ve been listening to you for the last hour, and I’ve been praying for you and your family. I am not leaving you side until you are on a plane to Orlando,” Genovich recounted.
Genovich said her husband found a new flight aboard Southwest, scheduled to leave for Orlando at 12:15 p.m. By the time Genovich got off her American Airlines flight, it was 11:55 a.m. and there was Mary, waiting for her.
Genovich flagged down an American Airlines agent and told her she needed to get on the Southwest Airlines flight. The agent informed her they couldn’t transfer the ticket because they didn’t have a contract with Southwest and there was no way they would reach the flight in time.
Mary and Laura ran to the plane’s gate. When the women got there, the gate area was empty except for a Southwest Airlines gate agent named Gayle.
Genovich wrote that with tears streaming down her face, she told Gayle her situation and asked if the flight was closed.
Gayle told Genovich she could put her on the flight, but the ticket was $400.
Again, Mary stepped up to help.
“I will pay for her ticket,” she said, according to Genovich.
Genovich said she told Mary she could cover the cost for the ticket, but Mary replied it was her Thanksgiving and Christmas gift to Genovich.
Genovich said she told Mary she would pay it forward; Mary said she should go take care of her dad and her baby- that would be paying it forward. Mary then hugged Genovich tightly and said “I love you, and the Lord loves you.”
When Genovich landed, she said she had an e-mail from Southwest Airlines gate agent that read:
“My name is Gayle. I was the gate agent for Southwest Airlines in Grand Rapids working the flight to Orlando. I wanted to let you know that all of us here in Grand Rapids are sending you good thoughts and prayers. I hope everything gets better for you very soon, and we send our greatest condolences.”
Genovich made it to the hospital that night, 15 minutes before visitation hours ended. Her mom passed away a few days later on Dec. 3.
“In the middle of an extremely difficult time for my family, I experienced the most incredible generosity from a complete stranger and the unexpected kindness of a major airline,” Laura Genovich wrote in her blog post, which has been shared more than 23,000 times on Facebook.
Southwest Airlines informed Genovich that after she boarded the plane, Mary returned to ensure all her luggage had made it on as well. That’s when the company gave Mary a voucher for a future flight for her kindness.