My brother, Eric, was flying into Cincinnati from California for our grandfather’s funeral. This was pre - 9-
11 days, so I was able to go right up to where they exited from the plane. As I waited for the 200-some
people to exit, I played a game that I usually play, imagining the lives of each of the passengers as they
passed. This one was definitely a businessman. He immediately went to a pay phone. This was before
the ubiquitous cell phones. He wore a shirt and tie, carrying his suit jacket and briefcase. That one, a
family of four, looked like they were on vacation. Everyone was in shorts and sandals, and they looked
excited, so they must be on the way to their destination, using a connecting flight.
As I gave the passengers new lives, a familiar face stepped through the portal from the plane. I thought,
wow, he sure looks.... Then I thought, no, it couldn’t be. Eric was next through the portal. As he
walked toward me, I motioned toward the passenger in front of him, asking in that silent language
siblings use. Yes, it was Alex Haley. Eric said they had sat next to each other on the plane from
Nashville. Like a teenage school girl I asked, “Oh please, Eric, please can you introduce me to him?”
Eric obliged and we approached Mr. Haley, who, despite my intrusion, was gracious enough to stop for
introductions. As Eric introduced us, Mr. Haley had missed my name and asked me to repeat it. I
thought that was polite of him, considering that we would probably never meet again. After the
introduction I floated to baggage claim with my brother in tow.
Four years later the news came that Mr. Haley had died. I was saddened when I first heard the news, as
if a friend had passed. I thought back on my chance meeting, and was thrilled I had had the
opportunity, if only for a minute, to meet such a gracious, polite, and talented person. I, who had always
had dreams of being a writer, and who had watched Roots in awe, got to meet the writer of such an
I was still bubbling over with excitement while we waited for Eric’s luggage to come up. As we watched
the baggage pass on the carousel, I saw this very old piece of luggage, tied together with rope. I
wondered who could afford to fly, yet carried such dilapidated baggage. Maybe it was someone who had
already lost expensive pieces and was being practical. A hand reached for the bag, and I followed the
hand up the arm to its owner. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing slightly in front of me, talking to a
companion, was Bob Braun, a local news person. I saw two celebrities in one day!
In my excitement I said his name just a little too loudly. Mr. Braun turned around, looked at me, said
hello, then immediately turned back to his companion without waiting for any response from me. I felt a
little miffed, but maybe I had intruded. After all, celebrities are approached all the time, as if the public
But then I thought, this is his home town. Surely he should have realized I knew him from his television
programs. Is snubbing me the way to treat a fan? I didn’t expect special treatment, just a more friendly
greeting. When Mr. Braun died a few years ago, I felt no loss.
Mr. Haley, who was traveling from Nashville through Cincinnati to somewhere, took the time to be
introduced to me in a busy airport while he was between flights. Mr. Braun, who was at his final
destination, waiting at baggage claim like the rest of us, barely acknowledged me. Somewhere, there is
a listen to be learned.