JetBlue flight attendant Kelly Davis Karas knew she had to do something special for one of her passengers on a flight to Orlando this week.
The woman in the wheelchair was distraught.
She was heading to Florida to be with family because her grandson, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, died in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday.
The young man known as Omar, a Starbucks barista who “got along with everyone,” was just 20.
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Karas came up with the idea of passing a piece of paper to everyone onboard to sign, a group show of sympathy.
So Karas and a colleague whispered their plan to the passengers as they took everyone’s beverage order. They started passing the paper at the back of the plane.
From that tiny piece of paper sprang such an overwhelming show of sympathy and support that Karas detailed what happened next on her Facebook page.
“Halfway through, Melinda called me, ‘Kel, I think you should start another paper from the front. Folks are writing PARAGRAPHS,’” Karas wrote.
“So I did. Then we started one in the middle. Lastly, running out of time on our hour and fifteen minute flight, we handed out pieces of paper to everyone still waiting.
“When we gathered them together to present them to her, we didn’t have just a sheet of paper covered in names, which is what I had envisioned. Instead, we had page after page after page after page of long messages offering condolences, peace, love and support. There were even a couple of cash donations, and more than a few tears.”
JetBlue and its 19,000 crew members felt the Orlando tragedy deeply, the company wrote on its blog after the shooting. The company offered free seats on flights to and from Orlando for family members and domestic partners of the victims.
When the flight landed in Orlando, Karas told the passengers that the company had given crew members permission to add an extra message to their regular landing announcement.
So she said: “JetBlue stands with Orlando.”
Then she offered a moment of silence in Omar’s memory.
As they deplaned, every passenger stopped to comfort his grandma.
“Some just said they were sorry, some touched her hand, some hugged her, some cried with her. But every single person stopped to speak to her, and not a single person was impatient at the slower deplaning process,” Karas wrote.
“I am moved to tears yet again as I struggle to put our experience into words. In spite of a few hateful, broken human beings in this world who can all too easily legally get their hands on mass assault weapons – people ARE kind. People DO care. And through our customers’ humanity today, and through the generosity of this wonderful company I am so grateful to work for, I am hopeful that someday soon we can rally together to make the world a safer place for all.”