It started out as a dream vacation to Disney World in Florida, but the return trip home for one New York family turned out to be a 13-hour, $900 cab ride.
Emilian Emeagwali and her five children spent nearly a week at the Orlando theme park when their flight to New York's Kennedy International Airport was canceled Sunday due to the massive snowstorm that slammed into the Northeast this past weekend.
"We arrived at Delta around 12:30 but they told us they canceled all the flights and the next available flight for us would be on Wednesday," Emeagwali told ABC News in a phone interview. "So I decided to book a flight with JetBlue to take us to Buffalo, and from there we took a cab."
The family took the cab to the local Greyhound station.
When they arrived there, they found out there were no buses in service.
At that point, Emeagwali asked the cab driver to take the family to a hotel, according to The New York Times.
That's when driver Eddy Emran said he would get them home if "they were willing to pay," the Times reported.
"What the airport taxi charges to take people to New York is $1,100. I asked him, Can he give me a discount and if it is possible for him to drive me to New York," said Emeagwali. "He sympathized with me, so he decided to waive $200 so he charged me $900.
Dark, Cold Journey Home
From Buffalo, Emran drove 13 hours to bring the Emaegwali family back to their home in Elmont, N.Y.
Emeagwali said the ride home was dark and visibility was low.
"It was so dark, the snow was all over, the wind was blowing, I was so scared," she said. "He [Emran] was so careful. He was driving like 30 miles per hour, and if the visibility was too bad he would stop, and if any of the kids needed to use the bathroom or needed to stretch he would stop."
At one point during the trip, she thought the wind would blow the cab off the road.
"The visibility there was so low, the wind was so high and the snow on the ground and then we used the GPS and sometimes the GPS would tell us we are on the wrong road, we should make a U-turn," she said.
But Emran told the Times that he was used to this type of weather.
"This is nothing for me," Emran said of the storm.
Bonded by Common Experience
While driving conditions where less than ideal, Emeagwali said they didn't put on music or the news during the ride home. Instead, they talked about their respective families to pass the time.
"I'm telling him about my family. You know, where we were, where we're heading and how he had a similar experience, him and his family also. So that's also why he was able to see from my own eyes, you know, and we bonded, you know, a lot," she said.
Emeagwali is an immigrant from Nigeria who operates a physical therapy practice, and Emran is a married father of four from Jordan.
"I think that made the journey easier because he can see the struggles, you know, how we struggle here and you know we are able to identify, you know, with certain things, you know like the struggle here in America," she said.
When they arrived in the New York area, Emeagwali saw few cars and lots of snow.
"I couldn't believe people would stay indoors, especially on George Washington Bridge, it was so clear. All we saw there was few cars and snow," she said. "But when we were heading to New York, seeing all the skyline, bridges – that gave us a lot of comfort. At least we are in New York area, you know. We are in NYC."
After leaving Disney World at 9 a.m. on Sunday, the family arrived back at their home on Monday at 10 a.m.
"I gave him [Emran] a bottle of wine and I told him my house is open for him anytime he comes to the New York area, he will be welcomed to my house," Emeagwali said.
For Emran, it was just another work day.
"I help everybody," Emran told the Times. "That's my life."