An autistic man named Russell Lehmann is a public speaker and activist for differently-abled people everywhere. He has been a voice for others like him for the better part of 10 years.
Recently, at the airport Russell had an experience that triggered a massive panic attack he could not pull himself out of. Luckily, just at the right moment, a kind hearted American Airlines employee decided to go above and beyond for a stranger.
Check out his incredible firsthand account below.
“This is David. He works for American Airlines. I will never forget this man for as long as I live.
After having my flight delayed and missing my connection for the second time in two days, I succumbed to the worst meltdown of my life at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. He happened to find me curled up behind a vacant ticket counter.
I was crying my eyes out, rocking back and forth as my muscles convulsed at a rapid pace. Sweating profusely, I was hyperventilating while my body shook in terror.
David calmly approached me, and with the utmost compassion, he asked me what was wrong. I was barely able to get any words out. I believe I mumbled the words ‘I don’t know. I can’t think, I have autism.’ He crouched down beside me and let me know that there was still a way I could get to Cincinnati late that night, therefore making it possible for me to give my speech the next day.
During a time of indescribable mental torment and anguish, this man showed me compassion. This man showed that he cared. Hell, he even offered to buy me a slice of pizza for lunch!
David offered to reroute my flight, and he gave me some time to think about it, for I told him that I was afraid of exacerbating my symptoms by boarding another flight, i.e. a tightly enclosed space filled with vast amounts of stimuli.
After about 10 minutes, David approached me again, this time accompanied by the pilot of the plane I had the choice of boarding.
David had notified the pilot, along with the entire crew, of my situation, and he took it upon himself to clear out a whole row of seats so that I would be able to have space to myself during the flight. The pilot was also incredibly kind, reminding me that what I was experiencing only added validity to the message I spread. To the lives I touch.
I ended up deciding to board the flight. I was the very first to board, and David walked onto the plane with me, introducing me to the flight crew one by one. I was still shaking and crying, but this time I was crying tears of thankfulness. If it hadn’t been for David, I would not have gotten on that plane.
This post isn’t about autism. It’s about doing the right thing. About being a good person. About accepting others and reaching out your hand to someone in need, even if they are a total stranger.
Each and every single one of us is a member of society, and it is our OBLIGATION as such a member to support one another, especially during an individual’s time of need.
Show what you’re made of. Give a damn. Stand above all the fighting and arguing. Be brave and open your heart. Fulfill your moral duties as a human being.
Be like David.”