On Friday morning, Carrie Hennell and Robert Watts got a call from US Airways telling them their flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport had been cancelled.
“I started laughing,” said Watts, 33, of Georgia. “We weren’t going to get to see my mother, my sister and my cousins, we weren’t going to get to meet my sister’s husband.”
Hennell, 35, of Washington, D.C., was planning to fly back to the Capital to see her mother and sister.
It took a short time for them to realize they had a different kind of flight cancelled.
“We had a one-on-one flight,” Hennell said. “The flight people knew the G and the T didn’t come together, so we ended up spending all night (Dec. 16) falling in love.”
The two had seen each other only once in the two years before. In 2012, Hennell, a former plan-ner, met Watts, a former press-box usher at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, at a Little League game at Nationals Park. They went back and forth for the next few years, calling and texting each other regularly, even as they were scheduled to see each other only once for vacation.
“We never got to say goodbye,” Watts said.
Early one Saturday morning in late November 2014, Hennell and Watts were on a flight on United Flight 914 from Denver to Atlanta for a three-day visit. At the time, Hennell was working for a real estate company in Northwest DC, helping land charter flights. Watts had worked for a security company in the state capital of Georgia and was a coworker of Hennell’s.
There wasn’t a sound on the plane when they landed in Atlanta. On the phone, Hennell asked Watts if he had any coffee. He did, Watts said, and they smoked it together in the bathroom. Then, a flight attendant announced they would be sitting next to each other.
The flight touched down and sat for 20 minutes, while the two sat on the plane separated by about six rows. They spoke over the PA system.
“We had just gone through a big amount of emotions: I told her I was sad she couldn’t see her family and she said, ‘There’s no way you would not know who I am.’ I said, ‘Here you go, we’re going to be together. I’m ready to start trying to figure out what we’re going to do.’ ”
Watts said he watched the plane for weeks after, riding Metro and visiting airports. Hennell couldn’t wait to tell him what was on her mind.
“She wanted to know what kind of excitement I was bringing for her,” Watts said. “The next morning, I got a text: ‘You left me wanting more.’ ”
A phone call followed, and then they saw each other for the first time. “I came down on my knees,” Hennell said. “I just got really, really, really emotional. I was almost crying. We were both so overcome with emotion and it was just an amazing moment. It was exactly like something I’d imagined — and it felt so real.”
And after they met up for lunch and learned each other’s last names, “it was a whirlwind,” Watts said. “She was the girl I had wanted.”
They began texting every day and began planning plans to visit each other on the weekends. By the end of the summer, they had two destination weddings: a picnic in Sanibel, Fla., and a meal on the water in Marina Del Rey, Calif. Hennell is planning a destination wedding in early December to celebrate their first year together.
They’ve gone to romantic getaways to see each other and were excited when the two businesses that worked with Hennell hired Watts and Watts to work in the back offices together.