People forget things on planes…even incredibly important things. A Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Chicago had a passenger with a very special item in tow, a stash of newly discovered family correspondence which dated back as far as the 1940s, written by Rachel DeGolia’s mother Lois Anne Schafer to her brother Phil. A cousin had found and sent them to Rachel, who then handed them over to her own brother to digitize them after a reunion at a wedding. The stack of paper represented a crucial untold part of DeGolia family history, especially after Lois’ passing due to cancer back in 1996.
Unfortunately, Rachel’s brother somehow misplaced and forgot these incredibly significant documents on the flight, and the folder was spotted afterward by Southwest Airlines employees. CNN describes how Midway Airport managers opted to hold onto the documents and search for the owners, rather than sending them off to a lost baggage warehouse in Dallas. The search took two weeks and turned up nothing, as they couldn’t connect the names on the letters to the passenger on the flight. It seemed a dead end.
Luckily, Southwest Airlines had something of a digital detective on staff. Sarah Haffner is a baggage service office supervisor and took on the task of finding the rightful owner of these letters. She took to the internet to search for names and information, having eventually mustered up Rachel’s name, briefly mentioned on one of the pages.
When Haffner phoned up DeGolia, the latter immediately exclaimed, “Did you find the letters?” Haffner said she had goosebumps and the two got “choked up” on the phone. DeGolia’s brother had reportedly contacted Southwest Airlines numerous times since losing the folder, but those messages never got to the right people. Instead, Haffner had to save the day with her sleuthing, and the family has now been reunited with an irreplaceable piece of their legacy.