Kimber Bermudez was simply flying to visit her parents in Florida when the Chicago teacher’s trip took an unexpected turn — ending with a gesture from strangers that left her stunned.
What began as a simple conversation with her seatmate led to three other passengers on the plane handing her cash to enable her to better help her students, who come from predominantly low-income families on the city's Northwest Side.
As she boarded Southwest flight 1050 to Florida last Tuesday, Bermudez began talking to the man seated next to her.
"I have been known as a talker since I was a child," she told NBC 5.
Bermudez said she quickly began discussing her job at Carlos Fuentes Elementary, a charter school in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.
"He said, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I am a teacher' and he asked where," she said. "He said, 'What is your greatest struggle?' And I started talking about our school and the amazing educators here."
Bermudez noted that she works in a low-income school where her students often face everyday challenges no child should have to deal with. She said teachers at her school often use their own money to help students whose families couldn't afford to buy supplies.
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“We talked about the world and how no child should ever do without,” she wrote in her post. “In 2018, kids should never be hungry or in need of anything.”
The man asked her for her work information as his company often donates items for schools like the one Bermudez works in.
“I was not intending for him to say that, and then gave him my school email. Then something amazing happened...” she wrote.
That's when a man sitting behind Bermudez revealed he had overheard her conversation.
"He was tapping me, 'Hey I'm sorry for listening' and handed me cash and I was trying to understand what was happening," she said.
"I heard your story; do something amazing," the man told her.
Bermudez, who later learned the wad of cash totaled $500, told the man she would use the money to buy her students books and give back to the community.
But it didn’t end there.
As the plane landed, Bermudez said another man sitting across the aisle from her handed her $20 and the man in front her of turned around to give her $10 more.
“I started crying on the plane,” she wrote. “I told all four men that I would do something amazing for the kids. I was not telling my story to solicit money, and never intended to walk out of that flight with anything other than my carry on.”
She told NBC 5 the money will change her students' lives in the classroom.
"With more resources I will get to do more and the kids will get to do more," she said. "I am just baffled and blown away by all of this."
Bermudez’s recount of what happened on her flight has been shared more than 800 times since she posted it on Facebook last week.
“I do however hope that posting this continues the chain reaction of people helping those in need, and especially the children in need,” she wrote. “It doesn’t have to be a school in Chicago, and any bit helps!”
She asked that her post be shared in an effort to find the generous strangers to thank them “and their amazing hearts.”
“My heart is in complete shock and awe right now,” she wrote. “When the world seems crazy there are always good people. I would do anything for my students, and want to thank these strangers. I don’t know the name of the man who gave me the $500 or the other generous strangers, but they deserve to be recognized.”
Signed, she wrote, Kimber Bermudez, Aisle 14 Seat C.