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You may have heard this story in the news, but I felt like it was a story worth sharing.

Not too long ago, a three-year-old boy in Denver, CO was murdered by his mother’s live-in boyfriend. He was scheduled to be taken off life support that night at 9 o’clock and then the procedures for organ donation would immediately follow. Over 25 people would be helped by the giving of his organs.

That morning Nancy (the step-grandmother of the little boy) was trying to make travel arrangements for her husband to arrive at the hospital before any of the procedures would take place in order to say one last goodbye. She arranged for him to fly from Los Angeles to Tucson and then to Denver. He arrived two hours before his scheduled flight time, but the delay at security and baggage check would keep him from making his flight. Although he pleaded with TSA and Southwest Airlines staff to fast-track him through the slow moving lines, he had no such luck. Even though he knew he missed his flight, once he cleared security he took off running to his terminal in his socks.

When he arrived at his terminal, he saw the pilot and gate agent waiting for him. The pilot said, “Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson. They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

The flight departed 12 minutes late and probably had hundreds of passengers moaning and groaning. Not only did the pilot’s decision affect the passengers on the current flight, but also those at the destination airport. His decision ultimately placed Southwest Airlines at risk of facing major complaints from hundreds of travelers. However, when Southwest was confronted about the situation, they simply said that they were ‘proud of their pilot, a man who clearly understands that taking a child off life support has consequences that run deeper than a flight taking off late.’

This could possibly be one of the most heartwarming stories of 2011. That pilot’s decision to wait was truly a heroic act. Sure, he angered hundreds of other travelers, but to that one man and his family he was hero. The pilot was able to give that man the priceless gift of saying goodbye, one that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.