Two weeks ago, one of my most prized possessions, my laptop, was stolen at the airport security checkpoint in Cancún, on the way back from a press junket. That was an experience I wish on no one, because having something so important disappear practically right before one’s eyes is enough to send anybody into a tailspin.
For several days, my thoughts were consumed by all of the years of work and information I had lost thanks to someone who, simply put, saw an opportunity and took it.
Today, however, I’m here to report that this story has had a happy ending: five days after the incident, airport security achieved the improbable — they recovered the laptop I had already accepted had become part of the statistics; one of the 650,000 such devices that get stolen at airport security checkpoints each year.
And not only was the laptop delivered back to me Wednesday by Cancun airport management in San Juan, but the information and everything in it — on which I cannot put a price on — is intact.
As it turns out, the story of how it was recovered plays out like a classic detective movie. Video footage, passenger information, and credit card records provided Grupo ASUR, which runs the airport, and its security staff key data to track down the exact flight and final destination of the man who took the laptop. Did he really think he was traveling anonymously?
Records also provided security staff information about where the man worked, which was the final — and probably most important — piece of the puzzle, because the employer was ultimately the one who confronted him on the whereabouts of my laptop.
While I will never meet the man in person, I know that his stunt cost him 25 years of tenure. Why a well-dressed executive would risk a whole life’s work over a purple laptop is beyond me. If the thought crossed his mind that he wouldn’t get caught, the reality of being interrogated by his boss must have hit him like a ton of bricks!
Aside from teaching me a few hard lessons — like to constantly back up my laptop and never take my eyes off of my stuff at an airport security checkpoint — this experience also reaffirmed my belief that miracles do happen.
It is also evidence that when a good security team is in place, there is hope for a positive outcome for a crime victim.
And because I’m a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, I want to thank Cancún International Airport General Manager Carlos Trueba-Coll, Commercial Director Manuel Gutiérrez and Public Relations Officer Eduardo Rivadeneyra, as well as Grupo ASUR’s security staff, for acting so quickly and efficiently to identify and pin down the man in Guanajuato, Mexico — 1,500 miles away and several days later.
Next on that list are my colleagues. Three professionals — Luisa García (sincomillas.com), Alana Álvarez (El Vocero) and Julitza Cardona (Casiano Communications) — who went on the same journey with me to Cancún and who witnessed the moment when I realized my equipment was missing: mid-flight at 36,000 feet on our way back home.
These three women did not hesitate for a minute in offering up their notes, photos and recordings to help me piece together the stories that I needed to write about the trip. Their actions reflect the camaraderie that for the most part prevails among journalists in Puerto Rico and that should really be the norm, rather than the exception.
So, with that I am closing the chapter on this incident, hoping the experience will help someone else avoid falling victim to sticky-fingered people out there who think it’s okay to take somebody else’s belongings at an airport, or anywhere else for that matter.