The woman who helped a deserted kid at an airport during a layover: NPR

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My Unsung Hero is a new series from the hidden brain team on people whose kindness has left a lasting impression on someone else. When Wendy McDowell was 8, she got stranded in an airport.



DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

Now is the time for My Unsung Hero, our newest series from the Hidden Brain team. My Unsung Hero tells the stories of people whose kindness has left a lasting impression. In 1979, Wendy McDowell was 8 years old and she had to fly from Bismarck, ND, to Burlington, Vt. No one in her family could accompany her, so her parents decided she would be chaperoned by a 19-year-old. old friend of the family. After flying together for a few hours, Wendy and her attendant landed in Chicago for a layover and found their connecting flight had been cancelled. Wendy says that’s when the family friend made a choice that Wendy still struggles to understand. She booked herself on another flight and went home, leaving Wendy to fend for herself.

WENDY MCDOWELL: She left me at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when I was 8 years old, with no flight, no plan, no adult responsible for me – she literally walked away. I remember feeling so hopeless, just that – you know that feeling we’ve all had, that feeling of being a kid and looking around and every face is a stranger’s face and how much it’s is terrifying. So it was like that, but there was no one coming to get me.

I remember this woman walking towards me, and she was wearing white. I remember she was wearing white, and she came over and sat down next to me. And I just remember – immediately feeling a sense of security because someone was with me. And she really, really nicely talked to me and asked me where I was going and where was my mother? And she just very calmly asked my permission to take over. And she said, if you trust me, I’ll take care of you. I have to fly to Pittsburgh, but I’ll fly to Burlington with you because you can’t do this alone. And I’ll need you to give me your mom’s phone number so we can call her. And this woman convinced my mother that I would be safe with her. And I told my mother that I felt safe. And she indeed – she took care of me.

The older I get, the more I think of her, knowing she did all this for a stranger. Something that may not have seemed like a big deal to him completely redirected my life because I don’t think I’ve ever been treated so badly as by the person who left me. And it’s a story that I told my son because I want him to know that people can choose to be beautiful and helpful and keep people safe and people like that exist. So I appreciate it more than words can truly express.

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ESTRIN: Wendy McDowell lives in Albany, NY You can find more My Unsung Hero stories wherever you get your podcasts. To share your unsung hero’s story, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to [email protected]

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