The frantic woman rushed to the counter.
She’d dropped her daughter off at the Omaha airport and, on her drive back to Lincoln, her phone rang.
Standing in the security line at Eppley Airfield, the daughter had discovered a terrible mistake. Aida Osman had grabbed her mom’s passport by accident and she had a plane to board soon. She could make it to Chicago with her driver’s license, but she wouldn’t make it to Sweden without the correct blue book.
Now her mother stood in front of the United counter at the Lincoln airport, frantic. The ticket agent looked up at her.
“This lady, God bless her heart, she said, ‘Wait, lady, I’m helping a customer and then I can help you,’” Semira Osman said last week. “And she did.”
What Patty Morgan did last Memorial Day was an act of kindness that did not go unnoticed by her employer, United Ground Express, which honored her with one of 13 national awards for exemplary service in 2018.
That morning, she finished her shift. She got on a flight to Chicago's O’Hare Airport and found Aida. She handed her the right passport. She flew home.
Or, she tried to.
* * *
The customer service agent doesn’t think she did anything special.
She wasn’t busy after work that day and because United employees can fly free on standby, she figured why not help a passenger out?
Morgan is a retired special-education teacher who moved to Lincoln in 2012 to be closer to her daughter and son.
She went back to school. Became a licensed massage therapist and opened her own business — Beyond Calm Massage & Spa.
And she took a second job with United Ground Express. She liked the work, everything from loading luggage to ticketing passengers to cleaning out planes. She works part-time now, coming to work at 4 a.m. and getting back home by the time most people are waking up.
That holiday weekend last year, she remembers another agent bringing the panicked mother over to her counter. Semira Osman's daughter had flown on Delta, but the airline didn’t have flights out of Lincoln to Chicago and couldn’t help.
United did have a flight departing soon, but there was a catch. The only option for getting the passport to her daughter on short notice was to send it with the plane’s cargo.
“That cost quite a bit of money and there was no guarantee she’d get it in time,” Morgan said.
There was a $1,500 plane ticket and the daughter’s monthlong vacation on the line, and for the woman behind the counter, the risk wasn’t going to work.
“So I just said, ‘You know what, I’ll just take it. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Morgan ran home, changed clothes — told her own daughter what was up — drove back to the airport and flew to Chicago. She met Aida, a 21-year-old UNL student, at the gate.
“She was so grateful. She hugged me and was crying and then she had to run to catch her flight.”
When Morgan arrived at her own gate to go home, she discovered the flight back to Lincoln had been canceled.
She kept her cool and found one last flight out, but there was another catch. It was landing in Omaha. So she put her name on standby and called her own daughter: Can you do me a favor?
* * *
Morgan can’t remember what she did on those flights. Played games on her phone, maybe. Talked to her seatmates, maybe.
She can’t remember why that flight back to Lincoln from Chicago was canceled. Weather, maybe. Mechanical problems, maybe.
She does know her daughter picked her up at the Omaha airport and drove her home.
Sarah Morgan remembers that day, too.
“I thought she was a little crazy for doing it. But she just does things, I guess, out of the kindness of her heart to help other people.”
Her mom is outgoing, the daughter says. When she and her brother were kids, Mom was always stopping in the aisle at Walmart or the mall to strike up a conversation.
“I always tell people she would probably talk to a fly on the wall. That’s just her friendly nature.”
Semira Osman remembers how friendly and calm Morgan was that day at the ticket counter.
“It was too good to be true. I jumped up and hugged her, it was like a million-dollar lottery winning.”
She calls Morgan a lifesaver.
“I really love her.”
Aida spent a month in Sweden with her aunt and cousins. She graduated from UNL in December with a philosophy degree and is living in New York City, a comedian and cast member on Season 14 of MTV’s “Wild ‘N Out.”
There’s one more piece to the story.
When Morgan handed her the passport that day, Aida took her mother’s and put it in her suitcase.
And when she got home, it was gone.
She had a trip to Canada booked, said Semira Osman.
But her new passport did not arrive in time.