Imagine you are 3 years old and have finally been adopted and are traveling to your new home. Somehow you were separated from your chaperone and became lost in one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world — Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
That is exactly what happened to Delta — the kitten.
On Sunday, December 20, Delta [as her rescuers named her], a 10-week-old British Shorthair kitten was traveling from Chicago to her new home in Seattle. The airport was active; the holiday traffic started to increase, people were trying to avoid the Christmas rush and Terminal Two was particularly busy. After clearing security, Delta and her chaperone waited at the boarding gate.
But, as you might expect from a toddler, the cacophony of new sights, smells and noises can sometimes be intoxicating, and the curiosity gets the best of them, and just like that, they are off exploring. One moment, they are here, the next they are gone. Vanished without a sound — your worst fear.
Thinking that Delta was sleeping, Mrs. Morgan (the chaperone) settled in, anxiously waiting for the flight to be called and boarding process to start. Little did she know that Delta already escaped. Once she landed in Seattle (SEA-TAC), Morgan contacted a SEA-TAC representative who contacted ORD, and between Delta Air Lines and TSA ORD, the “game was afoot.”
ORD TSA Supervisory Officer Timothy Wachowiak recalls the event. “(Officer) Katherine Bielak approached me holding a small kitten, stating that a passenger discovered it near Hudson News and handed it to her.”
Other officers remembered the cat and a passenger coming through the checkpoint. “I immediately pulled up CCTV and within a few minutes had the image of the passenger with the kitten,” said Wachowiak.
“Once the passenger was identified via CCTV, our officers jumped to action, and the lost kitten was located. They went above and beyond to search nearly 28 gates in hopes of locating the owner,” said ORD TSA Manager Alberto Martinez.
When Delta the kitten was finally rescued, she was tired, confused and hungry. Rashel Gordin, a local animal care advocate, volunteered to look after the kitten for the night or as long as needed, ensuring the animal was safe and fed. “She was the sweetest,” said Gordin. “My family gave her all their love and care before reuniting her with the owner (the Morgans).”
“It's not every day that something like this happens, so it felt very rewarding that we were able to take as good care as we possibly could and that the kitten was able to go home to its owners,” said TSA Officer Zuleiny Y. Soto Gonzalez. “The kitten, which we named Delta, will be dearly missed.”
Lead TSA Officer Nicole Jeffrey reflected, “There was also a sense of satisfaction and happiness with knowing that we did all we could do for the kitten and her owners. It truly showed how the spirit of teamwork within the TSA is alive and well.”
When Mr. Morgan (husband of the chaperone) arrived to retrieve Delta, he left a note, thanking all involved. The Kudos Across America – Chicago, Illinois entry was posted on December 30. When Martinez was asked about the final outcome and the kudo he gushed, “I’m so proud of my team!!!”