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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 12/30/2009

A gift from a stranger

By Valerie Strauss

Rosemary Saddler saved the trip.

When last I wrote about how the East Coast’s blizzard had snarled my family’s trip to Israel, it was unclear whether we would in fact be able to take the vacation or would have to return home.

Stuck in the snow-bound Philadelphia airport for two days, U.S. Airways mysteriously managed to lose all record of my family’s outgoing flight--and had no space to offer us on other flights for days.

(Lesson learned: Do not book a flight that is the only one a particular airline offers to that destination each day.)

Our luggage, however, was going to be put on the next flight out--with no way for us to retrieve it before it went, and no set date for its return.

(Lesson learned: Don’t put anything you absolutely need in checked baggage because you never know if you will see it again).

It seemed at one point that the only way we could get to Israel on time for my nephew’s bar mitzvah would be to pay $20,000 to an airline that did have space. That, of course, was out of the question.

(Lesson learned: Don’t tell a ticket agent that you will do anything to take a trip because he/she just may come up with a plan that costs tens of thousands of dollars you don’t have.)

Just when it looked like we were getting a real education in how to sanguinely negotiate disappointment, we found Rosemary.

(Lesson learned: Don’t give up easily.)

Rosemary is a U.S. Airways customer service representative who actually cared about giving real customer service.

She spent a very long time looking at every possible way that we could get to Israel on U.S. Airways and its partner airlines. When one option collapsed, she sought another. And another.

Finally, she figured out that there had been so many flight cancellations that there was no way everybody booked on the next flight would make it to the Philadelphia airport in time.

My family of four, as well as my sister’s family of four, would probably all make the flight going stand-by. (Since my nephew was the one having his bar mitzvah in Israel, it seemed super important for him to make the flight.)

Then, hours later, just as soon as tickets were allowed to be issued, she printed out eight of them for us.

Rosemary Saddler kept saying she was just doing her job.

But in fact she did more that that. She refused to give up, and, in the process, showed our kids that sometimes the smallest of kindnesses can have big consequences. The trip to Israel, the most compelling of places whatever your religion, offered its own rewards, thanks to the tickets she was able to secure for us.

Thank you, Rosemary.

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By Valerie Strauss  | December 30, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Tags:  travel  
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