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They had 3 suitcases and faced 5 flights of stairs. That's when a stranger appeared

Emily Rauschert (left) and Alice Claus.
Alice Claus
Emily Rauschert (left) and Alice Claus.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In June of 2021, Alice Claus and her sister, Emily, flew to Budapest for their uncle's funeral. It was a long journey, with multiple layovers. COVID-19 travel restrictions were just beginning to ease, and it wasn't clear whether the two sisters would even be allowed into the country.

When they finally arrived, after some 24 hours, they were tired and stressed. They got into a taxi, carrying three heavy suitcases, and headed to their rented apartment.

"We get to the apartment and no check-in instructions have arrived," Claus recalled. "The owner is not available and the phone number is not valid."

They tried calling customer service, but a live person wasn't available — they could only chat with a bot, and their problem was too complicated for that. The sisters were getting more and more tired. So Claus used the app to reach out to some of the owners of nearby apartments.

"And the third one that I texted said, 'Yes, my apartment is available. You can go and check in. Here's the code,'" Claus said.

They grabbed their suitcases and started rolling them down the sidewalk toward the new apartment. They walked down a block and around the corner.

Then they looked up, to see a sight that filled them with dread: A series of five staircases, meandering up the hill, which they would have to climb to get to the street with their apartment building.

"We just wanted to cry," Claus said.

That's when their unsung hero arrived: an athletic young man in his 20s, walking by with his girlfriend.

"He looked at us and said, 'Do you ladies need help?''' Claus recalled. "And we definitely would've said no, normally. And we looked at each other and said, 'Yes!'"

The young man grabbed two suitcases, ran them up all five flights of stairs, and came back down for the next one. They tried to pay him, but he said no.

"He just waved it off and said, 'No big deal, have a good day,' and went on his way," Claus said.

When they got inside the apartment building, they discovered they had even more stairs to climb: Their room was on the fourth floor, and there was no elevator. But because of the man's help, they had the energy to do it.

When they finally opened the door to their room, they collapsed on the couch. Looking back, they know that on that day, a stranger had saved them.

"That trip, that day, was so stressful," Claus said. "And this one young man just made such a difference."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Brigid McCarthy