A religious Jew by the name of David Gellis was on a business trip to Chicago. He spent an entire week involved in business and, upon its conclusion, he grabbed an afternoon flight on Friday back to New York. Shabbos was late and he figured he had enough time to make it home once he landed in New York before the z’man.
Unfortunately, right from the start, he realized that there was a problem with the flight. Although all the passengers had boarded, the plane had still not budged from the terminal. A half hour went by and suddenly the plane began to move. David relaxed a bit as he wasn’t too far behind schedule. But then, he looked out the window and saw that his plane, which had begun to taxi toward the runway, was now headed right back to the terminal, right back to where it had started. The minutes ticked by, and soon the flight was a full hour behind schedule. David was beginning to sweat as he realized he might not make it back home in time for Shabbos.
The captain came on the loudspeaker and announced that the delay was due to the fact that the President of the United States had just arrived in Chicago and, for security purposes, no one was permitted to move until the President and his entourage had cleared out. He apologized for the delay and anticipated that they should be moving in about another hour.
Now David really began to panic. There was no way he’d make it home on time, and his only option was to get off the plane now and stay by a friend of his in Chicago. He motioned to a flight attendant and explained that he must get off the plane, but she responded politely, yet firmly, that it was impossible as no one was allowed to come or go until the President had left. David sat back in his seat and thought about it. He was stuck – it was crazy! He might not even make it to his friend’s house in Chicago. But what would happen if he got sick and required medical attention? All at once, David began to shake and clutched his chest, gasping and choking at the same time. His alarmed seatmate hastily summoned the flight attendant, who recognized the seriousness of the situation. “Is there a doctor on board?” she called out in a shrill, pleading voice.
Seconds later, a middle-aged woman came bounding down the aisle clutching a stethoscope. “I’m a doctor,” she said loudly. “Let me see the patient.” The flight attendant pointed to David, and the doctor began to listen to his chest. “He’s having a heart attack!” she screamed, and she demanded that they call an ambulance and have it ready to go to take him to a nearby hospital.
A wheelchair was found, and David sat down in it, still clutching his heart. He was shocked and began to think that maybe he really was having a heart attack! Within seconds, the doctor was pushing him to the door of the aircraft, where they were both permitted to deplane due to the seriousness of the situation. She continued to push the wheelchair out into the terminal and headed for the airport exit. Suddenly, David held up his hand and she stopped pushing him. “You know what?” he said, with a relieved smile on his face, “I feel so much better. I don’t need to go to the hospital. Thank you for your help!”
David jumped out of the wheelchair, grabbed his small overnight bag, and ran to the nearest exit. He grabbed the first taxi he found and arrived at his friend’s house with just a few minutes to spare. He spent a wonderful Shabbos in Chicago and told his friend about the fiasco on the plane and how he managed to get off and get back here right before Shabbos.
On Motza’ei Shabbos, David took the first flight back to New York, and later on Sunday, when he went to daven Minchah, he told his rav the amazing plane story. The rav smiled as he listened and said he was collecting great hashgachah pratis stories.
It was a few weeks later, when his rav called him and told him the rest of the story! He had just come back from a simchah in Chicago, and he overheard a woman talking to a few people. She was saying, “I didn’t know what to do! The plane was stranded on the tarmac and not moving, and I realized I wasn’t going to get to New York City on time. Suddenly, they called out for a doctor, and I came running. I saw a religious man in distress, but when I checked his heart, he was fine. Then, I realized that this was my chance to get off the plane. I yelled that the man was having a heart attack and I needed to take him to the hospital. They let us off the plane and I was looking for a paramedic to give him over to, when the man just stood up and said he was fine. Then, he ran out one exit and I ran out another! I made it home for Shabbos with seconds to spare!”