Saturday, August 3, 2013

Welcome Home

Welcoming Committee at the Huntsville Airport!

What a welcome we received at the Huntsville International Airport at 11:45 p.m. last Sunday! How incredible...thanks to Linda Detweiler, Toni Roth, June Morgan, and some true-blue Merrimackers who stayed up very late to greet our kids! It was a welcome that represented the community support of our trip...hundreds of people donated to help defray the expenses, hundreds followed our facebook posts and this blog, hundreds followed the excellent local media coverage of our exciting adventure. It meant the world to all of us to see those smiling faces after such a long day of travel.

Connor's mom, Amie, was in special need of that warm welcome. Seems there was a very rude passenger on our final flight into Huntsville...some witchy woman who, even though I'm sure was exhausted from her travels, chose to comment rudely on Connor's behavior as he waited to depart the airplane. Connor did nothing wrong - at all - but evidently this witch thought he was invading her space or something. She snapped rudely at him to get out of her way. Amie waited until everyone was off the airplane and, when she noticed the woman waiting outside the restroom, Amie decided she couldn't let the woman's comments pass. She told her that Connor has special needs - to which the woman replied, "Then as his mother, you should work with him more." What a witch. I wish I could find out who she was - all Amie knows is her physical description (small, middle-aged, well-dressed Asian-American woman - anyone who knows who she might have been, arriving on Sunday, July 28 on Delta flight 1655 from Atlanta at 11:30 p.m., let me know!).

Amie needed the warm welcome our friends had for us. I'm sure it wasn't the first time that someone has spoken harshly, or stared, or questioned Amie about Connor.
Autism, wherever it falls on the spectrum,  has many hallmarks that can be recognized but most people with autism do not have any physical markers that make them appear "different." I wonder if the woman on the plane would have snapped at one of the kids with Down syndrome, a condition that's more obvious to recognize. With 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, people like that witch on the airplane need to get educated and show some compassion to people on the autism spectrum and their families.

Three years ago, I took one of our students on an outing and encountered a similar situation. I've never really told anyone what happened that day - because I have always been ashamed of the way I reacted. But after Amie told me last night what happened on the airplane, I decided...what the hell? I'm gonna tell everyone who reads this blog exactly what I said to one really fat, ugly, redneck woman and her equally unattractive daughter who appeared to be around 10-yeaers-old - they looked like Honey Boo Boo and her mother.

The student I was with was in a wheelchair - a darling 9-year-old at the time. We had been to the Build-A-Bear store and were waiting in a long line at Red Robin to be seated for lunch. The child was showing anyone who would look the bear she had made, telling them what she had named it. The aforementioned Honey Boo Boo Momma was in front of us in line and while other people were warmly greeting my student and commenting on her bear, she kept her back to us and pulled her Honey Boo Boo child closer to her. My student reached out and patted Honey Boo Boo Momma on the arm, saying, "Would you like to see my bear?" Honey Boo Boo Momma turned around, looked at my student with utter disgust and disdain, and said, "No, I would not!" She turned back around, putting Honey Boo Boo in front of her - I guess to shield her from the horrible sight of a child in a wheelchair?

The hostess and the other people waiting in line heard and saw all of this - several people stepped into my student and began to exclaim even more enthusiastically over her bear, to make up for the horrendous woman. I couldn't take it, so I stepped up beside the woman and said to her, "Excuse me. But we don't have anything back here that's contagious, so you don't need to shield your fat daughter from us. You should, however, think about taking her somewhere for lunch besides Red Robin, cause she looks like she could stand to lose a few." The hostess laughed out loud and proceeded to seat everyone else in line ahead of Honey Boo Boo and her mother, leaving them to wait until the last person in line was seated. I never looked back at that woman, and told my student not to either. My student said, "Don't worry, Miss Debra. I'm used to stuff like that." I didn't know what was worse - the way the woman acted or the fact that a 9-year-old told me she was used to being treated like that.

Well, we were treated like royalty when we arrived home. I didn't see a welcoming committee for the witch on our plane and I hope she had a hard time laying her head on her pillow that night. Maybe she said a prayer asking for forgiveness for being cruel and hateful to a child but she probably didn't. People like her don't have a conscience, or an awareness of how their words can hurt innocent families. And people like her don't deserve another word of consideration - in this blog or in life in general.

So, thank you again to our wonderful supporters who shared the journey with us and welcomed us home with open arms!

Anna C, Anna G, Zahra, Anna Ryane, Katie
Anna C and Zahra

1 comment:

Gerry Coffey said...

Dear Debra and Alan:
I have had the pleasure of Volunteering at Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center but only recently learned of its history and the wonderful example you two are setting for outstanding community involvement to benefit those with special needs who are often forgotten.
That said, I am wondering if I might play a small part in providing a place for your devoted Merrimack clan, its dedicated helpmates, volunteers and those sometimes forgotten people with special needs to whom you offer enrichment they will never forget.
Please check out the following URL and let me know if it might be a place for you and your group to have an outing embraced in the arms of Nature with a few amenities provided by humans:
Gerry Coffey
Words to live by: “Do Good, Feel Good! Do Bad, Feel Bad! LIFE: It’s That Simple!” ;-)
Gerry Coffey, CAJA: Court Appointed Juvenile Advocate
Health Educator/Councilor/Global Media Liaison, IVU
Coffey Break: A Healthy Alternative:
Recipient: Int’l. Vegetarian-of-the-Year-Award, Bangkok, Thailand, 2006