After her father died, a stranger intervened: NPR

Roxanne Olson and her father, Richard.

Roxanne Olson

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Roxanne Olson

Roxanne Olson and her father, Richard.

Roxanne Olson

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on another person.

In 1999, when Roxanne Olson was 23, she left her home in Eureka, California to pursue her dream job, as an assistant producer on a cross-country reggae tour. But in the middle of the tour, she received some terrible news – her father died of a sudden heart attack.

“I was young enough that I didn't understand that death was part of my world,” Olson recalls. “So it was a crazy shock.”

Olson was able to get a plane ticket home, but when she arrived at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, things got worse. Someone went through security with a bag, closing part of the airport.

“It turns out that more than 6,000 people were evacuated from O'Hare Airport that day,” Olson said.

She remembers standing on the sidewalk, surrounded by thousands of strangers as helicopters flew overhead.

“It was the craziest, most surreal thing that ever happened to my father [had died]”, She said.

After hours of waiting, Olson and the other travelers were allowed to return. But the airport was in complete chaos.

“I didn't know where to go, who to call, what to do. It felt like everyone was busy running around,” Olson said.

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As she stood there, feeling more and more exhausted, a woman approached her, pushing an empty wheelchair.

“She approached me and said, 'I'm here to help people like you,'” Olson said.

Olson felt relieved and sat in the wheelchair. As the woman drove them through the airport, Olson told her about her father's death and her attempts to return to her home in California.

“She seemed to understand my problem, talked to the right people, and took me on my first flight.”

Olson returned home that day. She says she will never forget the woman who made it possible.

“There was something in me that saw that I was broken and needed help. And she saved me.”

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast – New episodes are released every Tuesday. To share your unsung hero's story with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to

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