"It was a blessing, it really was," said Bueno. "It was a blessing we all found each other."
Bueno made plans to visit her daughter in Reno on Christmas Day. She arrived early to Oakland International Airport, sending her daughter a photo to let her know she was on her way.
"They kept announcing the flight attendants didn’t show up. The pilots are in the plane waiting, but the flight attendants didn’t," said Bueno.
While she waited, Bueno did what she always does — she made friends.
"This other young couple, she was pregnant and going to have baby in May," said Bueno. "I started talking to them, heading to Reno, to have Christmas with his family."
After more than two hours of waiting, Southwest canceled the flight, leaving her and everyone else waiting to scramble.
"Oh my gosh, I’m by myself, I said what I am going to do?," Bueno recalled. She said that's when the couple told her to follow them.
The couple, Bueno and two other women made a plan and hopped on the shuttle to the rental cars.
"A girl from Concord and a girl that was flying to Reno to see a friend that has cancer," said Bueno. "She wanted to visit her… and there we all were."
The group of five managed to rent an SUV, the last car on the lot, and they began a three and a half hour drive to Reno. All of them were fast friends.
"We have Gina, myself, Tanya, Anthony and Colleen," Bueno said as she pointed at a group photo.
They made it safely to Reno where Bueno spent the night with her family. The new group of friends exchanged numbers and started a group text. They’ve already made plans to meet up next year.
"The couple lives in Reno, the other girl lives in Reno, we made a vow to go to her house," said Bueno. "I don’t know if I want to go for Christmas, but we will get together some time or another."
In the midst of the travel chaos, these strangers found joy in helping each other. Bueno calls that a Christmas miracle and a reminder to all of us.
"Just be friendly to people, be kind, and it’ll come back to you."