ashtech

Half Mag / Half Zine

A file of precious family letters left behind on a plane that landed in Chicago was returned to the family weeks later, thanks to an airline employee’s persistence.

Rachel DeGolia said her mother, Lois, died in 1996, and a cousin recently found a stash of letters that Lois had sent to her brother, Phil, between the 1940s and 1970s.

DeGolia said she handed the letters to her brother so he could scan them and make digital copies, but he accidentally left them behind on his Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Chicago’s Midway Airport.

She said it wasn’t until hours after landing that her brother realized the letters were missing.

Sarah Haffner, a baggage service office supervisor for Southwest at Midway, said she arrived at work after a few days off to find the file of letters in the office safe. She said valuables usually are sent to a lost baggage warehouse in Dallas after 24 hours, but managers decided to hold onto the letters in the hopes of finding the owner.

Haffner said the letters had been in the safe for about two weeks when her manager told her officials had struck out in their search for the owners of the file, and she was invited to make her own efforts before sending the letters to the warehouse.

Haffner said she had the name “Rachel DeGolia” to go on, but there was no record of her being on any recent flights. She said she turned to Google and found someone with that name in Ohio, along with a phone number.

“At 9 p.m. one night I got this call,” DeGolia told CNN. “She said she was Sarah from Southwest, and I stopped her — I said, ‘Did you find the letters?’ I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing.”

Haffner said it was immensely rewarding to find the owner of the letters.

“This was the most precious thing I’ve ever had to locate,” she said. “When monetary stuff goes missing, people are relieved we have it — phones, laptops, purses, they’re happy you have them but they’re not sentimentally attached.”

DeGolia’s sister-in-law was sent to the airport to bring the letters home.

“I can assure you they’ve been scanned, now,” DeGolia said.