Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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McCarran Magic: Two travelers share stories of strangers coming to their aid

Don’t say anything bad about Las Vegans to Brittany Dewitt and Paul Chapman.

The two travelers came through McCarran International Airport 11 days apart in February, and they both wound up with tales of hair-pulling panic that ended with the acts of strangers rescuing them and reinforcing their faith in humankind.

A Crisis, a Craigslist Hero and a Cause

On Feb. 8, Dewitt arrived at McCarran frazzled and tense, and she left it simultaneously frustrated and comforted.

Dewitt was traveling with her 5-month-old daughter, Arrayah, when a conspiracy of flight delays, economical packing decisions and the stocking choices of airport vendors put her in crisis mode.

Dewitt, 24, was on a 7 a.m. flight out of Burbank, Calif., returning home to Indianapolis via a connection in Las Vegas. The flight was delayed, and Dewitt missed her connection by a few minutes.

Their scheduled one-hour layover was now a four-hour layover, and annoyance became panic when Dewitt realized she had not packed enough baby food to keep Arrayah’s feedings on track.

“It was very frustrating for me because she had not been feeling very well and now we were not going to arrive home until after 7 p.m,” Dewitt said.

Dewitt further explained she was not producing enough milk for her baby and had to supplement it with formula. She had only packed enough to get through lunch. She was traveling alone with the infant for the first time, and was trying to limit extra weight.

“I could not find any place that sold baby food or formula in the entire airport,” Dewitt said. “I began scanning the airport hoping to find another mother with a baby that may have carried some extra with her to see if I could get something for my daughter to have for her dinner. I had no luck. I called my twin sister from the airport, stressed and crying, saying I had no idea what I was supposed to do.”

Dewitt’s sister posted an ad in the volunteer section of Craigslist, the online listings site, asking for aid.

Within 20 minutes Travis Horn, who lives in the northwest part of the valley and has a 2-year-old son, responded. He took down the information, rushed to the grocery and then the airport.

“For me, it was the principle,” Horn, 23, said. “If I was in need, I hope there would be someone out there decent enough to help. Everyone has their own problems, but a simple act of kindness goes a long way.”

By the time Horn arrived, Dewitt’s flight was preparing to board and she could not meet him and get back through security in time. Horn found an airport employee to shepherd the formula to Dewitt at her gate.

“It was a wonderful reminder that there are still many kind and compassionate people in the world — people that are willing to help a stranger,” Dewitt said. “He texted me a picture of himself and his son, and I sent him a picture of my daughter and myself. It was a beautiful thing.”

Dewitt said she hoped to bring about some change based on her experience, and advocate for airports to carry essential baby supplies.

“I am so grateful to Travis — the man I know only from his picture and kindness to a complete stranger. But looking back, I am shocked that there is not a single store in the airport that sells formula, baby cereal, or baby food,” she said.

1,000 Memories Lost and Found

Chapman loves Las Vegas.

The Vancouver resident would move here if he could. So, when his daughter’s soccer team was invited to a tournament in Las Vegas that happened to coincide both with his wedding anniversary and his other daughter’s birthday, Chapman decided to make the soccer trip a vacation for the whole family.

From their arrival Feb. 13 to the family’s departure Feb. 19, Chapman, his wife and his daughters chronicled everything from cannonballs in the resort pool to soccer team events and the children’s chance encounter with “cute boys from Phoenix” on two digital cameras.

They were running late for their morning flight Feb. 19 and in their haste, Chapman left his camera bag in the Enterprise rental car. By the time he got to the airport terminal, realized he did not have the cameras and returned to the Enterprise desk, the car had been processed and employees said nothing was found. Chapman was crestfallen.

He hadn’t downloaded images off the cameras since Christmas, and more than 1,000 images would be lost if he could not get the cameras back.

“The flight home was awful,” Chapman said. “I felt like I’d throw up.”

His daughter publicized his gaffe on Twitter. He checked Craigslist to see if anyone was selling cameras similar to the ones he lost. He called and emailed Enterprise daily. Chapman was not concerned with the cameras; he just wanted the pictures back.

A couple of days passed, and Enterprise did not turn up anything. Chapman contacted the Sun on Wednesday, looking to publicize his plight and even offer a reward for the return of the pictures, no questions asked.

“There’s no fixed price I could put on those pictures,” he said.

Then, someone at Enterprise took initiative and came to his rescue.

On Thursday, Chapman received word from an Enterprise manager, Ualia Zukas, at the McCarran office. She realized the car had not been rented again as Chapman was originally told, but rather had been moved to a different lot for sale.

“She personally went over there and examined the car, and found my cameras and is shipping the bag to me,” Chapman relayed via email. “Amazing service, what an angel she is.”

The whole experience gave Chapman one more reason to love Las Vegas.

“We’ve been a couple times, and I adore the place,” he said by phone before his cameras were found. “I’d move there in a heartbeat if possible. I love the city and the people.”

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  1. There are some great people in this town as there are everywhere. Just seems that the good does not make the news like the bad does. Most don't want to hear about good.

    Pay It Forward. You never know when you just might be the one needing help.