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Jet Blue Crew Member Sends Man’s Spirits Soaring

Jet Blue crew member sends man’s spirits soaring
Darryl Williams never got her full name, so he’s unable to send her a note of thanks, which is why he called here, hoping a copy of this morning’s paper might reach her.

“All I know,” he said, “is that her first name is Janna and she’s part of a Jet Blue crew based in New York. She deserves a good word and, from what I read, her airline could use one, too.”

Williams, 43, was flying home from a family reunion in North Carolina a week ago, fully prepared for the aggravations that routinely occur whenever he travels by air. A quadriplegic since being shot in the neck by a sniper when he was a 15-year-old wide receiver for Jamaica Plain High School, he’s no stranger to indignities.

“One time, I was flying home from a Super Bowl,” he recalled. “My assistant was clearly struggling with our luggage as he pushed me through the airport. A skycap saw what was happening, then gave us a lookaway, like a lookaway pass on a basketball court. It was obvious he wanted nothing to do with us. Another skycap walked up and said, ‘Hello, brother, do you need some help?’

“So he grabs our bags and as he’s walking with us to the van I had rented I mentioned the other guy’s attitude. He said, ‘I’ll tell you why he did that; he thought that because you’re in a wheelchair you wouldn’t tip well.’ So I gave this guy a $50 bill; he said he was going to rub it under that other skycap’s nose. It was funny. It was also another example of why you should never stereotype people.”

But it happens to him a lot.

“Have you ever witnessed a person like me being transferred from his own wheelchair to one of those slimback chairs?” he asked. “They have to disassemble my chair, taking off the arm and leg rests; then two guys grab me under the arms and two more grab me under my knees, and sometimes they don’t know what they’re doing, even though you try to tell them. You often wind up with the top of your pants around your neck.

“But that didn’t happen on my Jet Blue trip. They knew what they were doing, which I appreciated because who wants to become a spectacle? We’d all like to maintain our dignity.”

Janna watched that scene unfold.

“When I asked her for a cup of tea, we began to talk and ended up laughing the whole trip. At one point she looked at me and said, ‘I’ll bet you’re a player,’ meaning a charmer with the ladies. It was what I would call a Hyde Park moment.”

He was referring to a 1995 assembly at Hyde Park High School where he talked about racism, violence and peer pressure. Then, to the horror of some faculty members, a student inquired about his personal life, clearly referring to romantic possibilities.

“No one had ever asked me a question like that, not even close friends or family members,” he said later. “And I never brought it up because I didn’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

“But since she’d asked it respectfully, I knew I had to reply. Kids are brutally honest; they just come out with whatever’s on their minds. They haven’t learned to disguise their questions, the way we do.

“So I said, ‘I get along all right, and I want to thank you for asking, because that tells me you see me as a man, not as an object.’ ”
That, he said, was how Janna, the stewardess, saw him, too.

“She looked at me and saw a man, not his circumstances,” he explained. “Believe me, in a situation like mine you quickly become aware of other people’s reactions.

“She didn’t see my situation. She saw me. It’s as simple as that. And I just wanted her to know how much it was appreciated.”


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