Washington - It had been nine long years of fertility treatments, miscarriages and adoption stress, but Dustin and Caren Moore finally were on a flight home with their adopted baby girl in their arms. They nervously cradled their daughter, who was just eight days old.
Midflight from Colorado to California on Nov. 9, Dustin Moore realised the baby needed a nappy change. A Southwest Airlines flight attendant named Jenny led the couple to a space where they could change their slightly fussy newborn.
"Jenny and another passenger complimented my beautiful daughter and politely asked what had prompted a flight with such a young infant," he wrote in a Twitter thread this week. "I gave them the shortened adoption story, to which they hastily offered congratulations, and shared a few more kind remarks."
Once they were back in their seats, a flight attendant named Bobby approached to inquire about their little girl. When he left, Dustin Moore, 33, and Caren Moore, 35, looked at each other, confused about the attendant's interest.
"Five minutes later, Bobby came on the intercom and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, there's a very special guest on the flight today. She's only 8 days old and she's traveling home with her mom and dad,' " Moore said in an interview with The Washington Post.
The flight attendant announced that he'd be passing out napkins and pens for anyone who wanted to jot down a message for the new parents. The cabin erupted into cheers and applause. A steady stream of people came by to coo and congratulate the couple.
"We had no expectation they would have done something like that," said Dustin Moore, his voice cracking. "I get choked up thinking about it."
One napkin read: "I was adopted 64 years ago. Thank you for giving this child a loving family to be part of. Us adopted kids need a little extra love. Congratulations."
The crew collected all the napkins and read a few of them aloud.
After more applause, the flight attendants bundled the 60 napkins and gave them to the Moores, along with a set of pilot wings. The flight attendants also told the Moores that they themselves are married, and a fellow flight attendant had done this for them while they were on their honeymoon so they wanted to pay it forward.
"What all of those perfect strangers and attendants did not know, was the emotionally tender state of two brand-new parents. Parents who after 9 years of trying had been blessed with their first child. Parents who felt scared, but determined in their new role," Dustin Moore wrote on Twitter.
The Moores, who adopted their baby through an agency, were at the hospital in Colorado when the birth mother delivered. The adoption process is stressful and worrisome, Dustin Moore said, which made the celebration on the plane even more meaningful.
"Adoption is wild with uncertainty," he said. "You wonder, is this birth mother going to choose us? What happens if she changes her mind, if she backs out?"
He said he tears up just thinking about the plane ride home because of the overwhelming support they felt at a time when they were also worried that their daughter might somehow be stigmatized.
"For an entire crew of strangers to come together like that, to partake like that, to show us that kind of love and kindness meant everything to us," he said.
When they got home to Buena Park in Orange County, Dustin Moore contacted the airline to let it know about the gesture. His mother made the napkin notes into a book so the couple could preserve the advice and good wishes for her granddaughter.
Southwest Airlines released a statement Wednesday saying that the crew showed "kindness and heart" on that flight. "We join in the new parents' joy and wish them a lifetime of love and baby snuggles," the statement said.
Dustin Moore, a registered dietitian, is working toward a doctorate in public health at the University of California at Irvine and is also a graduate program coordinator at California State University at Long Beach. He said he was fuming on Sunday about something that happened at work, and considered writing about it on Twitter. But then he thought better of it.
"I said to myself, 'How about pointing out something good?' " he said. "I was tired of going to my Twitter feed and seeing something horrible somebody had done. I wanted to contribute something uplifting."
So he wrote about the flight and people immediately started reacting, many telling their own adoption story. He said he and his wife were floored by all the comments, and grateful for the personal moments people shared.
Moore said their baby, whose name they decided not to share publicly, is thriving and has completely captivated them.
"It's just amazing having a daughter," he said. "All the little details that are mundane to other people are amazing to us. When she burps, we're like, 'What an accomplishment!' It was a long, long wait for her, but every minute we had to wait was worth it."