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Southwest Airways’ lacking luggage workforce reunited this girl together with her treasured circle of relatives letters

(CNN) — It is the stuff of go back and forth nightmares. Taking one thing treasured in your shuttle, retaining it just about hand so you do not possibility dropping it in checked luggage — after which figuring out you do not have it while you get house.

For Rachel DeGolia, the nightmare of dropping one thing on a flight got here true. In September, her irreplaceable choice of circle of relatives letters from the Forties to Nineteen Seventies was once left on a airplane because it pulled into Chicago Halfway Airport.

It was once, says DeGolia, “tragic.” However that tragedy became to aid — even triumph — when, after a three-week seek, one dogged airline consultant reunited DeGolia together with her letters.

A present from her overdue mom

Rachel DeGolia lost her mother, Lois, in 1996.

Rachel DeGolia misplaced her mom, Lois, in 1996.

Rachel DeGolia

It was once the pandemic discovery that had made Rachel DeGolia’s summer season.

Her mom, Lois, had died in 1996 of most cancers, leaving the circle of relatives bereft.

However, she says, her circle of relatives have been “prolific letter writers” — and in summer season 2021, her cousin discovered a choice of letters despatched by means of a tender Lois to her brother, Phil, who’d saved them in every single place the years.

The letters, courting again to 1947, recounted her lifestyles — first as a pissed off teen in small-town Lansing, Iowa, then going to school in Chicago, and assembly the person who would turn out to be her husband.

“There have been a lot of these questions we might have sought after to invite her, however she died inside of 4 months of her prognosis,” says DeGolia. “This felt like a present — a window into her younger maturity. And to lose it…” she pauses. “I felt so silly to have now not a minimum of copied them.”

Her cousin had despatched them to her in batches as he went via them in the summertime, and DeGolia took them together with her to her daughter’s wedding ceremony birthday party over Exertions Day weekend. The party have been not on time a yr — the couple had canceled their 2020 wedding ceremony, were given married over Zoom in June, and deliberate a birthday party in Brooklyn for September 2021. DeGolia idea it will be the highest instance to proportion the letters together with her brother.

In her pleasure, she did not make copies of them earlier than the shuttle. And in his pleasure, her brother took the dear shipment house, ensuring to stay it with him within the cabin — however then left it within the cabin when he were given off his flight house to Chicago.

“He was once going to scan them when he were given house, so he took them at the airplane, put them at the ground they usually have been someway kicked beneath his seat,” says DeGolia.

So by the point they arrived at Chicago Halfway, they have been out of sight, out of thoughts.

“He did not realize they have been long past for a couple of hours,” says DeGolia. “He did not even get to learn them.”

Letters between siblings

Lois and Philip Schafer had been close siblings.

Lois and Philip Schafer have been shut siblings.

Rachel DeGolia

What her brother had left at the airplane was once the record stuffed with the letters a tender Lois Anne Schafer had written to her brother, from 1947 to the Nineteen Sixties.

Her brother, Phil, had long past to school on the younger age of 16, and the younger Lois felt stifled in Lansing — a small city at the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, which nowadays has a inhabitants of simply 968 other people.

DeGolia is raring to emphasise that Lois liked the city until the top of her lifestyles, as have her youngsters — “We saved the home within the circle of relatives the place she and our uncle grew up and spend many pleasant holidays there” — however as a young person, her mom felt another way.

“She was once writing about how bored she was once, and the way unchallenged she was once in highschool,” says DeGolia.

“She was once pissed off with the social lifestyles in Lansing, writing to my uncle how a lot she overlooked him. She was once chomping on the bit to get out of city.”

If truth be told, she controlled it. Her brother had discovered it arduous to regulate going from a tiny city to school — Harvard — at this type of younger age, so Lois spent her remaining yr of highschool residing together with her aunt in Milwaukee, to ease the transition into faculty lifestyles.

The siblings exchanged letters their whole lives.

The siblings exchanged letters their entire lives.

Rachel DeGolia

She endured writing to her brother as she moved to Chicago, the place her global modified as she began her research in social sciences, finishing up that specialize in city making plans.

“It spread out a wide variety of horizons for her,” says DeGolia.

“She did graduate faculty there, she met my father, they usually were given married there and stayed in Chicago.

“So she wrote [to Phil] about what she was once pondering and studying, tune, concert events philosophical issues she knew my uncle would have interaction together with her on.

“Even if I acquire he did not write again as incessantly as she’d like — she was once at all times complaining about that.”

Uncle Phil won’t were excellent at replying, however he was once superb at maintaining their circle of relatives historical past. A “pack rat” as DeGolia calls him, he saved each and every letter his sister despatched him.

And as she endured to jot down via marriage, youngsters, and caring for her getting older oldsters, who she lived with reference to, he saved all her letters — offering a document of her lifestyles.

In 2021, DeGolia won that entire historical past of her mom’s lifestyles, and her overdue oldsters’ first assembly, when her cousin discovered the letters. A historical past that can have been erased had the letters been thrown away at the airplane.

The letters get misplaced


Sarah Haffner is the Southwest worker who reunited Rachel DeGolia together with her mom’s letters.

Courtesy Sarah Haffner

It was once a Southwest flight from New York to Chicago Halfway that had taken DeGolia’s brother house in September after the marriage birthday party.

After the passengers deplaned, workforce discovered the folder all over their post-flight assessments, discovered the letters have been treasured, and passed the folder over to a gate agent, the place it was once positioned in a secure.

Southwest process is that on the finish in their shift, gate supervisors deliver the rest precious immediately to the airline’s Luggage Sorting Administrative center on the airport in query — which is how the letters ended up in Sarah Haffner’s palms.

Actually, they wouldn’t have. Typically, the airline offers its airport brokers 24 hours to find the house owners of high-value pieces — earlier than sending them to the principle Southwest misplaced luggage warehouse in Dallas.

If truth be told, Haffner — a Luggage Provider Administrative center manager for Southwest at Halfway — have been off paintings for per week when the folder was once dropped at her place of job, however her coworkers hadn’t sought after to ship the letters to the depot, as a result of they gave the impression so very treasured.

“I got here again they usually have been at the most sensible shelf of our excessive price secure,” says Haffner.

“I checked out them, however it had one in every of my supervisor’s names on it, with a word pronouncing to carry directly to it. So I left it there, pondering they knew who the house owners have been.”

If truth be told, the opposite workforce had given up on discovering the landlord, having drawn successive blanks, and now not having had someone touch them direct in regards to the letters.

DeGolia mentioned her brother have been leaving messages with Southwest centrally — however someway the messages had by no means reached the fitting other people.

Every week after her go back — two weeks after the letters have been misplaced — Haffner’s supervisor advised her that they have been at a loss.

“They mentioned, ‘We have had no success, so if you wish to take a peek, do — if now not we’re going to must ship it to Misplaced and Discovered,” she says.

“That is an enormous warehouse of misplaced pieces in Dallas. It is really well arranged, in addition to we will be able to do it, however it is massive. I did not need to ship it there after I’d seemed within the envelope.”

A love tale ‘like a film’

One letter talked about Lois' desire to marry Frank Rosen, despite both their families' misgivings.

One letter mentioned Lois’ want to marry Frank Rosen, regardless of each their households’ misgivings.

Rachel DeGolia

As a result of once she seemed, Haffner had discovered this was once an merchandise that had to in finding its proprietor.

“There have been about 40 handwritten letters, in point of fact elderly and brown, courting from the Forties, between members of the family,” she says.

“I pulled out one and browse the entire letter. I spotted those have been individuals who have been most likely now not right here. It was once stuff about relationships and circle of relatives drama — it was once very private.”

If truth be told, it was once so private that she stopped studying. “I most effective learn the highest letter as a result of I felt like I used to be impeding their privateness,” she says. “It was once tremendous personal. I used to be making an attempt to not learn it.”

So personal, actually, that Haffner even refused to speak about the contents with CNN till Rachel DeGolia had agreed to proportion its contents.

The letter that Haffner had learn, sitting on most sensible of the pile, was once one by which Lois was once telling Phil a few guy she’d met at graduate faculty, and fallen in love with.

They might were given engaged — most effective to search out that neither circle of relatives sought after the wedding to occur.

“Each units of oldsters disapproved as a result of he was once Jewish and her circle of relatives was once Protestant, and they did not suppose it will paintings,” says DeGolia. “It was once a really perfect letter.”

“It was once like a film,” provides Haffner. “She was once scripting this letter, sibling to sibling, combating for his or her love as a result of her oldsters did not suppose he was once the fitting guy. She was once pleading, writing that he was once a really perfect particular person. It was once so unhappy. I learn it, and I mentioned, I simply can’t ship it to Dallas.”

The unhappy letter had had a contented finishing. Lois Anne Schafer and Frank Rosen married in 1949. That they had 3 youngsters — Rachel being the oldest — and have been in combination till Lois died in 1996, after 47 years of marriage.

“It did paintings,” says DeGolia of her oldsters. “That they had a really perfect marriage.”

Haffner was once enthusiastic about the letter. “I used to be so curious as to what the top of the tale was once — did they get married, reside fortunately ever after?,” she says. “It was once some distance too sentimental to ship to the warehouse.”

Discovering Rachel

Lois Schafer and her mother Ruth on the Mississippi at Lansing.

Lois Schafer and her mom Ruth at the Mississippi at Lansing.

Rachel DeGolia

Typically, the process for reuniting pieces with their house owners is quite easy. Non-valuables are shipped immediately to the Dallas warehouse and entered into the stock there, whilst high-value pieces get a 24-hour grace duration on the airport at which they’re discovered. Brokers like Haffner search for any id at the merchandise, after which fit the identify to a passenger reserving.

If the individual has been on a connecting flight, that isn’t a subject, as a result of they have got a database of passengers going again a few years.

There was once only one downside. The one figuring out identify in the entire batch of letters was once one Rachel DeGolia — and she or he hadn’t been at the flight.

Haffner and her colleagues attempted their very best. They combed via their passenger knowledge however could not in finding any document of a Rachel DeGolia — “It is going again two or 3 years, however with the pandemic she most likely hadn’t traveled,” she says.

“We have been looking to fit the names within the letter together with her remaining identify, however clearly hers is a married identify.”

After per week of working seek after seek, Haffner went off piste. She determined to desert the Southwest database — and became to Google.

And there she discovered main points of a Rachel DeGolia from Ohio.

“I used to be like, what are the probabilities — it has got to be her,” she says. She controlled to trace down a telephone quantity.

“At 9 p.m. one evening I were given this name,” says DeGolia. “She mentioned she was once Sarah from Southwest, and I finished her — I mentioned, ‘Did you in finding the letters?’ I could not consider it, it was once wonderful.”

Haffner, for her section, had “goosebumps.”

“This was once essentially the most treasured factor I have ever needed to find,” she says. “When financial stuff is going lacking, persons are relieved we’ve it — telephones, laptops, handbags, they are glad you will have them however they are now not sentimentally hooked up.

“However this was once as soon as in an entire life. Rachel were given tremendous choked up, and I did too.” She begins tearing up as she recollects their dialog.

“The day earlier than, I might long past house pondering, ‘We are not going so that you could in finding them, we’re going to must ship them to Misplaced and Discovered,'” she says. “However it is so massive, and I knew the probabilities would diminish of them being positioned. It was once so obtrusive the ones letters supposed such a lot to anyone. I simply could not do it.”

A legacy discovered

Rachel DeGolia now has a record of her mother's life -- seen here in 1979.

Rachel DeGolia now has a document of her mom’s lifestyles — observed right here in 1979.

Rachel DeGolia

Typically, Southwest shoppers will have to pay the transport rate to be reunited with their misplaced luggage. However this time, Haffner introduced to pay for a taxi to get them again to the circle of relatives. DeGolia did not even agree with that, anymore — she despatched her sister-in-law immediately to the airport to select them up, even though by means of that time Haffner had long past house.

“Rachel wrote me a letter — an old-fashioned word, mailed to Halfway,” she says.

“It was once so appreciative, and so humorous — she mentioned she could not consider we might discovered them, that they would in reality believed they have been long past, and that another way they would have needed to kill her brother. That is their circle of relatives legacy, and I used to be so happy we have been in a position to search out them. The ones letters have been obviously supposed to be handed down throughout the generations.”

DeGolia, in flip, calls Haffner a “glorious younger girl” for saving this “snapshot of what [my mother was like] rising up.” A protracted-time Southwest passenger — “We’e been flying for the reason that airline opened, as a result of our adolescence house was once 10 mins from Halfway” — she’s extremely joyful her loyalty has been repaid.

In the meantime, she and her circle of relatives are finding nonetheless extra letters. “My circle of relatives have been prolific letter writers, and I’ve containers that my grandmother wrote,” says DeGolia. “And I feel my mom saved each and every letter my grandmother despatched her, and she or he wrote her virtually on a daily basis for years and years.”

Even if she’s cautious so as to add: “I will be able to guarantee you they have been scanned, now.”

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