A family's plan to ride the "Polar Express" was derailed — but thanks to the kindness of strangers, they were still able to enjoy some holiday fun.
Lloyd and Angie Swartout said their 18-year-old son, Ty, has autism, and was at first very excited to ride the Polar Express-themed train at the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Arizona. The train is set up to look like the magical locomotive from the 2004 animated movie, "Polar Express."
However, before the family could board the Christmas train ride, Ty had "an atomic size meltdown," Angie Swartout wrote in a long Facebook post.
"A wonderful woman helped us by holding our stuff while we tried to keep Ty from smashing his head on the bricks," the post continued. "The staff of the Grand Canyon Railway tried so hard to help. They even held the train."
Finally, Ty's mom made the decision to go back to their hotel room — but it wasn't an easy choice to make. "I cried all the way back," she wrote. "My heart was shattered. I wanted this so badly for my son. He loves trains and he loves the Polar Express. This was a dream come true. But it didn't happen."
The mom's brutally honest post captured the hearts of thousands. It was shared more than 25,000 times — in part because of the way it ended.
Swartout opened up about how her "heart ached," after the incident. "We got to our room and I went into the bathroom and silently cried," her post continued.
However, the family's night was not over. "Then there was a knock on the door calling out 'maintenance!' My husband answered the door and slipped outside," the mom wrote.
Soon, Swartout joined her husband outside the hotel room, where she saw one of the people who tried to help earlier in the day. With him was a police officer.
"They said that they felt horrible about what happened and wanted to know if they could do something special for our family," Swartout wrote. "I started crying again and asked if I could hug them. The poor policeman looked terrified but I didn't care. I hugged anyway sobbing thank you over and over again. I ran into the room and tried to get our son up but he refused so my husband said he would go tell them."
To calm her son, Swartout started reading his favorite book, which is of course "The Polar Express." Soon, they were done reading the story — and started living it.
Into the hotel room walked the train conductor from the hotel's "Polar Express" ride. He was the spitting image of the conductor from the film, played by.
He left his post at the Polar Express at the Grand Canyon Railway to come meet Ty.
"He sat next to Ty's bed and chatted with him. Ty was star struck," Swartout wrote. "He was so excited and happy. Then the conductor gave Ty his pocket watch!"
Not only did Ty get to experience a little bit of the Polar Express right in his hotel room, the hotel and railway offered to reschedule the whole visit for the family.
"They said that they want everyone to experience something special and magical," Swartout wrote. "They succeeded. We may not have gotten to ride a train but we got something even more magical ... We got the gift of human kindness!"
Swartout used Facebook to share the story and thank everyone who helped her and her family that day, saying they made a huge difference in their lives. She also shared several photos of Ty and the conductor — who she said came back to the hotel room later and gave Ty a bell from "the North Pole."
The Grand Canyon Railway also refunded the Swartouts' trip and invited them back. "To top everything off The Conductor will be having dinner with us and take Ty on a tour!!! They want Ty to experience his dream of riding the Polar Express!!" Swartout wrote in an update to the post.
The mom said her heart was so happy — and it's clear from the photos Ty felt the same way.