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The Atlanta airport angel who wouldn't take no for an answer

Kindness connects two people at airport
How a simple act of kindness connected two strangers at Atlanta airport 06:54

With a torn ACL and a knee in need of replacement, Cindy Tutko was facing a long and challenging trek through the Atlanta airport while heading home to Florida about a month ago. She had just left Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after visiting her son, Jamie, and his family. She arrived at Terminal C in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, and needed to get to Terminal F for her next flight. But the trains were down. 

So, she started walking.

"She had actually fallen that day," said Jamie. "And she, like, put herself into tears with how much pain her knee was in. When I was taking her to the airport, I could tell she was hurting."

"I had a big, heavy satchel that I was carrying, and that's what was weighing me down," she said. "It was full and heavy, very heavy."

Michael Wright, who happens to be from Lafayette, Louisiana, spotted Cindy limping along. When he initially offered to help her, Cindy declined, saying, "Oh, no, no, I'm good."

But Michael wasn't going to take no for an answer. He grabbed her satchel, put it on, and said, "Let's go."

"At first I thought, OK, um, what if this guy steals my bag and he is gonna take off? I'm like, I'm doomed. I can't run after him," Cindy said.

"Within seconds really, I realized he was genuinely being nice," Cindy said. "He was just a nice guy. He was helping me out."

Michael said, "And we just walked and we just shot the breeze."

For nearly an hour Michael Wright carried Cindy Tutko's heavy bag as they walked through four airport terminals.  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

For 55 minutes, Michael carried Cindy's bag and walked right alongside her, through Terminals C, D, E, all the way to F. 

"Right before we got to the gate, he grabs my hand, he looks at me and he goes, 'You're my mom,'" Cindy recalled. "And I'm like, 'OK?' And we walk up to the gate and he tells the guys at the gate, he says, 'This is my mother. And she's got some issues with her knee. And is there any way that she can get on the plane before everybody else? 'Cause she walks very slowly.' And the guy was like, 'Sure, no problem.'"

Michael said Cindy responded with a hug and a little kiss on his cheek, telling him, "Your mom would be proud of you."

"That's all I needed, man," he said.

Cindy texted her son to tell him all about that "nice guy Michael" from Lafayette. Jamie immediately turned to social media asking for help finding him.

It took just a little over a day to find him.

Jamie said, "His fiancée messaged me on Twitter. She said, 'Hey, I think that the Michael that you're looking for is my Michael.' And I said, 'Oh really? Like, why do you think that? And then she said, 'Does your mom, did she have knee surgery or is she about to have knee surgery?' Boom! That is it!"

Michael said, "It's sad that our society had eroded to the point where I'm on TV and Jamie is on TV and you're here, and — we're flattered, but I didn't do anything."

He described his actions that day as "just being a human being."

Jamie Tutko and Michael Wright. CBS News

Michael didn't know it, but the lady he helped is a helper herself. Cindy serves the deaf community as a sign language interpreter. "My parents were both deaf, so sign language was my first language," she said. "And I've been dealing with the deaf ever since."

The language of kindness is universal, and it's the Louisiana way. 

"I may not have been born here myself," said Jamie, "but this is home. Louisiana is home to me. I love it here. And this is the best place in the world, with the best people in the world. Absolutely, no doubt."

Cindy Tutko. CBS News

This story is about a little act of helping a random person get to a place and making it easier for them. "If people can understand that," said Michael, "this was worth everything." 

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