As a reporter, and someone who truly loves our community, the welcome home event that took place Saturday at Tac Air in Knoxville for our newest residents from Haiti was simply overwhelming.
There are so many conversations and moments that took place during this process, and on our trip, that I’m still trying to process them all.
However, one of gratitude continues to race through my mind this morning.
WBIR has been working with Whitestone church and this orphanage for almost four years now.
Friday evening, Pilot Travel Centers called us to say they would loan their corporate jet to this operation.
They knew how important it was to these Knoxville families, who had adopted six orphans from Haiti, to get them from Fort Lauderdale to Knoxville together.
The aircraft that was so graciously donated and flown by Reaching the Globe Mission Flights and Provision was not large enough to accommodate all of them from Florida to Knoxville. They were the one’s that flew them out of Haiti in heroic fashion.
After Pilot had already agreed to take part in the effort, someone from Jimmy Haslam’s office, who was very instrumental in making this happen, but wants to remain anonymous, called to ask if Al Fitzpatrick was on this particular trip.
I said, “Yes, and you’re helping him bring his new little girl home!”
There was a pause on the other end of the line.
Then came, “He’s one of our employees.”
I got chills.
Pilot Corporation knew and was helping Al, through Senator Corker’s office, get his new little girl home, but again, they didn’t know he was part of the group trying to get from back Fort Lauderdale.
That speaks even more to what they did.
It was one of those incredible moments when we landed in Fort Lauderdale and I found Al with his little girl.
I told him the jet was from Pilot.
He didn’t say a word because he was so overwhelmed.
“They have requested you ride home on it with your little girl,” I said.
His eyes filled with tears of gratitude.
That is a moment I will never forget.
Source: WBIR-TV (KNOXVILLE, TN)