This is David | Organization for Autism Research

News & Events

In this week’s post Russell Lehmann shares how a stranger helped him as he was having a meltdown in an airport. This heartwarming post was originally posted on Russell Lehmann’s Facebook page.


Russell Lehmann and David

Russell Lehmann and David

This is David. He works for American Airlines. I will never forget this man for as long as I live.

After having my flight delayed and missing my connection for the second time in two days, I succumbed to the worst meltdown of my life at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. He happened to find me curled up behind a vacant ticket counter.

I was crying my eyes out, rocking back and forth as my muscles convulsed at a rapid pace. Sweating profusely, I was hyperventilating while my body shook in terror.

David calmly approached me, and with the utmost compassion, he asked me what was wrong. I was barely able to get any words out. I believe I mumbled the words “I don’t know. I can’t think, I have autism.” He crouched down beside me and let me know that there was still a way I could get to Cincinnati late that night, therefore making it possible for me to give my speech the next day.

During a time of indescribable mental torment and anguish, this man showed me compassion. This man showed that he cared. Hell, he even offered to buy me a slice of pizza for lunch!

David offered to reroute my flight, and he gave me some time to think about it, for I told him that I was afraid of exacerbating my symptoms by boarding another flight, i.e. a tightly enclosed space filled with vast amounts of stimuli.

After about 10 minutes, David approached me again, this time accompanied by the pilot of the plane I had the choice of boarding. David had notified the pilot, along with the entire crew, of my situation, and he took it upon himself to clear out a whole row of seats so that I would be able to have space to myself during the flight. The pilot was also incredibly kind, reminding me that what I was experiencing only added validity to the message I spread. To the lives I touch.

I ended up deciding to board the flight. I was the very first to board, and David walked onto the plane with me, introducing me to the flight crew one by one. I was still shaking and crying, but this time I was crying tears of thankfulness. If it hadn’t been for David, I would not have gotten on that plane.

This post isn’t about autism. It’s about doing the right thing. About being a good person. About accepting others and reaching out your hand to someone in need, even if they are a total stranger.

Each and every single one of us is a member of society, and it is our OBLIGATION as such a member to support one another, especially during an individual’s time of need.

Show what you’re made of. Give a damn. Stand above all the fighting and arguing. Be brave and open your heart. Fulfill your moral duties as a human being.

Be like David.

About the Author

Russell Lehmann

Russell Lehmann is a public speaker, author, poet, and autism awareness self-advocate. You can visit Russell’s website at for contact information, motivational videos and booking information. You can also follow him on Instagram: @autism_advocate_

Related Posts

Stay Informed. Sign up for updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Donate to OAR