By: Laurie Schloff
Usually I am glad when there’s an empty seat next to me on a plane. Yet when a mom with a beautiful smile apologized for taking the middle seat, her spirit was so warm, I didn’t mind at all. As TV camera people came down the aisle to film her just sitting there. I said “You must be famous.” She told me that she was going to meet her daughter, a student at Lynn University in Florida, who had just arrived in Haiti with a student group called “Journey of Hope to Haiti”. An hour after checking into the hotel, the earthquake hit. I instinctively said, “You’re Britney’s mom.”
I had heard her husband on the radio that morning praising God and that all he wanted was Britney in his arms. They had been told she had been rescued, was in a helicopter, perhaps on its way to the nearby Dominican Republic. They had not talked to her or seen a picture and didn’t know if she was physically hurt.
Going through a personal earthquake of emotions, to a destination of unknowns I was amazed by CherylAnn’s ability to show such grace and cheer on the outside. This was a communication under pressure lesson for me and one I will pass on to clients –and myself.
I felt protective of CherylAnn, flying through the clouds to hold her daughter. We both watched CNN in fear., I gave her some juicy fruit and movie magazines. She told me that Britney dreamed of being on TV. I said that as a speech coach, I’d help her in any way and for her sure to be debut as a guest on The Today Show on Monday . CherylAnn turned to say ” See you on Oprah!” as she departed with her husband and their two teen boys to reunion with their little girl.
But this morning, the world and dear mom, CherylAnn, were told that there had been a mistake and that though eight Lynn University students arrived in Fort Lauderdale last night, Britney was not one of them.
It is now a Journey of Hope for the world, CherylAnn and her family.
Britney Gengel, please be alive.