A tornado in St. Louis highlights the human side of service

Last weekend, a tornado in St. Louis reminded me that the people who provide us with customer service every day deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and caring. Remembering to do that not only makes you a better person, it results in better service.

On Friday, a tornado ripped through Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The airport suffered millions of dollars in damaged and was closed indefinitely on Friday night as officials assessed the situation. My first thought was, “How are we going to get home?”

My wife, Sally, and I had flown into that airport just a few hours earlier for a weekend visit to St. Louis. Our plan was to catch a St. Louis Cardinals game on Saturday and then fly home Sunday afternoon.  Getting home anytime soon now seemed unlikely to happen. We spent Saturday morning watching the news and weighing our options for getting home to San Diego.

We finally left the hotel to get lunch and head to the game. Sally and I took a moment to remind ourselves that the people serving us that day may be facing far greater problems than our transportation worries. Many people in surrounding communities had their homes destroyed by tornadoes on Friday and as many as 30,000 people were still without power.

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Throughout the day, we made a point to ask the service employees we encountered if their homes and families were OK. Everyone we met was personally unaffected, but almost everyone had a family member, friend, or co-worker whose home was damaged by the tornado.

A curious thing happened when we asked people how they were doing. They genuinely appreciated our caring and many took a moment to share a brief story about their experience. Their service also demonstrated caring in return through their attentiveness, friendliness, and willingness to go the extra mile. We had made a human to human connection.

The amazing end to the story is the airport re-opened and we caught our Sunday afternoon flight home as planned. Herculean efforts by employees at Lambert Field to resume operations made it all happen and we are grateful to everyone who made our St. Louis trip a great one.

If you’d like to donate to the tornado relief efforts in St. Louis, please visit www.redcrossstl.org.