|So why is Danny smiling beside a Pennsylvania State Trooper? Read on...|
Hello Readers! Mara and I are finally back from a wonderful Christmas break spent with family in Utah, and my oh my do we have a story to tell. Some of you may have already seen our updates on Twitter yesterday as we raced from NYC to the Poconos in PA, all in an attempt to gather intel and retrieve some goods stolen during our flight home to NYC.
Well, now we're sharing the details...this story plays out at least as good as any story from Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, or something from the Masterpiece Mystery Theatre. Though the tale is long, read on to see how Mara and I become a real life Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (not sure who plays who in this story :).
On Tuesday we had a layover in Dallas, TX. After exiting the plane, we realized we left a leather bag behind with a laptop, iPad, and headphones. 20 minutes later, I noticed I didn't have my bag on me! I rushed back to the gate to see if the plane had left yet. To my relief it had not, but the gate attendant informed me no lost goods had been reported. She immediately went to the plane to search for my items. She came back 3 minutes later, empty handed, saying she looked everywhere.
Undeterred, I looked around and recognized one of the American Airline flight attendants that had served me water and went to ask if she'd seen anything or knew where I should begin looking. She was very sweet as I explained the items I was missing. She said that it's the flight attendants that clean the plane upon arrival and they didn't see anything, but said she wanted to help me if she could and marched right over to the gate attendant and asked if she could search the plane again on my behalf. I thanked her profusely for her kindness, and told her how grateful I was to have found her...I was convinced that thing had to be on board. I mean honestly...who bothers looking under seats as they exit a plane to see if there is anything left behind to steal, especially when it's under the window seat! It HAD to be there.
When the flight attendant returned empty handed, I'll admit I was a little broken-hearted. She said the best thing I could do was continue to call the lost and found, she was sure it would turn up. She gave me a hug as I thanked her again for searching the plane for me. Then she said these fateful words: "I'll pray for you...If God is good, you'll get your items back." I smiled, tapped my heart knowingly, and said "God is good, and I hope you're right." And thanked her again.
The Beginnings of a Miracle
I returned to the American Airlines gate attendant one more time, asking what I should do next. She gave me some numbers to call to report to lost and found, and then looked at the flight log to see who sat behind me in case they could offer any clues. I already knew exactly who sat behind me...it was about half a dozen Mormon Missionaries (they're pretty easy to spot based on their attire, especially considering I was one 11 years ago). She said the party of 6 missionaries were waiting in another terminal to fly to Tallahassee, FL and that I could still catch them. I ran as quickly as I could to their gate, found the group of missionaries, and asked if they'd seen anything. They said they'd noticed the bag under my seat, but thought nothing of it when leaving the plane. Then, as a group, they offered a little prayer out loud in the middle of the terminal on my behalf and asked God for a miracle! I thanked them, wished them good luck in their future service, gave them some quick advice regarding some lessons I'd learned while walking in their shoes years ago, and left to catch my flight to NYC.
Mara and I boarded the plane a little heavy hearted...but we also knew it's times like these that we have to put into practice everything we talk about on this blog. I had already felt a pretty strong calm over me as I raced around, I felt like everything was going to be okay (not necessarily that I'd find my stuff again, just that in the end it didn't really matter, it was just stuff). Mara and I were determined to bear this trial as patiently as possible. So, as we sat in our seats on the tarmac at Dallas Fort Worth, we each whispered our own little prayers to each other. We expressed gratitude (especially for the 1 hour delay for our next flight which allowed us to exhaust all possible leads and for the kind gate and flight attendants that helped us), explained we knew we didn't need this stuff anyway, but asked for a little help. We prayed to be okay and at peace no matter what the outcome, we prayed that whoever had it would turn it in to lost and found or have a change of heart and return it, and we committed to let go of anger, and asked to be guided to know what to do to pursue the best possible outcome. All things considered, I'd say we felt pretty dang good in that moment, and for the rest of the flight. As I've said before...peace can come no matter the circumstance, especially when you choose to embrace some higher emotions of gratitude, hope, forgiveness, patience, etc.
Apparently, God Now Has Tech Support (thanks Steve Jobs! :)
While in the air, it occurred to me that with the advent of iCloud, Apple had created a nifty little App called "Find My iPhone" that works for Apple gadgets that have the app installed and turned on. I couldn't remember if I'd turned it on for my iPad, but started checking the moment we landed. Eventually, when we returned to our apartment, I went to the iCloud Login and typed in my ID and password.
To my delight, I had indeed registered the iPad, though it couldn't be located until someone connected it to the internet. I promptly followed instructions to lock the iPad remotely, display a message on the iPad asking someone to call me if it is found, and instructed Apple to email me the moment it connects to the internet and is located. After such a long day, Mara and I went to bed, grateful at least for our safe return.
At 7:30 when I woke up, I checked my email and to my delight, received a message saying only 4 minutes earlier my iPad had connected to the wonderful world wide web! I raced out of bed and to our home computer to look at the map, and to my great surprise GPS pegged a house only 88 miles away in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. Knowing for certain that it was stolen, I couldn't help but be amazed the thief was sort of my neighbor. I mean come on....out of all the flights connecting out of Dallas Fort Worth, the culprit was only an hour and a half away? What are the odds?!?
I immediately dialed the nearest police department in PA and explained that I had a GPS position on the house that had my goods and asked them to send the cops right away!!! They explained they couldn't, they had to follow procedure and had to receive a police report from the precinct where the theft occurred. AHHHH! So I called up the Dallas Police department and spoke with the outstanding Officer G. After describing the stolen goods, Officer G. patiently explained that though he understood our need for urgency, the report probably wouldn't go to a detective's attention for at least 3 days. "3 DAYS?!?!? But I've got the location NOW!" I explained. He said there wasn't much he could do. I went to the bedroom to wake Mara and give her the scoop and ask what she thought we should do. Should we go to the house? Can we get a police escort? Will anyone be able to help us ASAP? Mara felt like we should get on the road and head to the Poconos, and that we'd figure the rest out on the way.
Let the Sleuthing Begin
We hopped in the car and started driving west. Over the next two hours, my wife called the PA Police Department and the Dallas Police asking them again & again to help expedite matters! While we waited for him to follow up, we called the Sheriff's department, some Constables, ANYONE that might have info on the neighborhood and advice for how to handle the situation. Some said go knock on the door, most suggested waiting and letting the police take care of it. Though we wanted to drive right to the door and ask them to return the items and we wouldn't press charges, we both agreed that doing so was waaay too risky!
|Danny talking to a local to get info on the neighborhood (like... do a lot of people here own guns?)|
Since the GPS showed us the home, but didn't give us the address, we decided to gather more intel while waiting for some movement from the Dallas Police. On some adrenaline high, we somewhat crazily drove past the home to see what the neighborhood was like and figure out the next move. Our first pass we correctly identified the home. After driving some way down before turning around (we didn't want to look suspicious :), we came back to find that someone had just come home!!! They were in the car in the driveway!!! AHHHHH!!! KEEEP DRIVING!!! We committed the house number and license plate to memory, and found somewhere to pull over and consider our next move. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
To Catch a Thief
We arrived at the Swiftwater Police Department 15 minutes later and introduced ourselves. I think they kind of thought we were a little crazy to drive out there and get the ball rolling (and I suppose we were). But, soon enough they were listening to our story and reviewing our evidence and the list of possessions stolen. By now, because of my wife's persistence, Detective Tallant of Dallas had actually called the PA Police and provided his report. BAM! Within minutes of our arrival, Troopers Carito and Felsman were dispatched to the house, and we sat and waited, after of course asking the Troopers if we could come along for the ride...they said no and that we'd have to live vicariously through them. :)
|The Troopers get the details on the stolen goods and explain their plan of action|
Within about 30 minutes, Sergeant Diana came out to tell us the items had been recovered and the Troopers would be returning shortly with the woman and my bag full of my tech goodies!!! We couldn't believe it! The Sergeant explained it was an older woman who claimed she "didn't trust American Airlines to properly return the goods, and had tried calling Apple to locate the owner." I guess she didn't see the big message on the iPad saying, "Call me if you have my iPad, I have important notes and am willing to offer a reward." :)
Book 'em Danno! (A Thief Revealed)
We considered dropping all charges....until the officers escorted in a woman in handcuffs. It turns out, IT WAS THE AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT FROM OUR PLANE!!!!! You can't imagine our disbelief. It was the same flight attendant who went back to the plane to search for my missing goods, the same flight attendant who told me she'd pray for me, the same flight attendant who hugged me saying in those unbelievably ironic words "If God is good, you'll get your items back."
I'll be returning to PA sometime in the near future to actually face this woman and testify in court. This was an American Airlines Flight Attendant, someone paid and trusted to serve the interests of those traveling (we paid $1600 for those tickets!). Had she done this before? Would she do it again? In this case, I absolutely have to pursue Justice. I must admit, I hold no malice in my heart for her, only pity. It is truly sad that she could lie right to my face about the whole thing.
- Mara - never once did she express frustration at me for being tired and careless and leaving behind my stuff. Instead she was kind, patient, loving, and the perfect sleuthing companion.
- Gate Attendant - For helping me pursue all possible avenues.
- Missionaries - For actually praying for me out loud in the middle of the Dallas Airport Terminal.
- Steve Jobs - Boy did I hit the jackpot with that App! Thanks Steve for making it so easy to find my missing gear!
- Swiftwater PD call taker - thanks for all the help and pushing us in the right direction, and patiently explaining how we needed to get things done (even though we really just wanted you to go knock their door down :)
- Officer G. of the Dallas Police - Extremely helpful during our multiple calls, responded immediately to emails, as kind and professional as you could ask for, and helped expedite what would have taken 3 days.
- Detective Tallant - Jumped on our case ASAP and called to make sure he could help in anyway, making sure to get the reports to the Swiftwater PD so they could move!
- Troopers Carito and Felsman - You guys rocked it! I'm grateful for your passion in pursuing justice. We look forward to helping you close the case!
- Sergeant Diana - Thank you giving us the best news we could imagine. You and your entire team were wonderful and deserve all the appreciation Mara and I can possibly muster!
- ALL OUR READERS - ARE YOU GUYS STILL READING THIS THING??....SORRY IT'S SO LONG!