Sometimes a painful loss can bring a blissful reunion.
But a happy ending was not what Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint envisioned when he saw a taxi pull away from his New York City apartment with a four million dollar Stradivarius violin on loan to him still inside.
Quint was returning home from Dallas, where he had performed with the irreplaceable 285 year old instrument. After unloading his luggage from the cab, Quint turned to retrieve the Stradivarius, but the sonorous strings were replaced by the onerous sight of the taxi’s retreating tail lights.
“I almost fainted,” Quint said. Unable to get the cab’s license number, the panicked 34-year-old musician called the police and the taxi commission before heading back toward the Newark Airport--where his plane had landed and his ride began--to view taxi mug shots with authorities.
New York has an impressive history of taxi drivers responsibly returning various Stradivarius and other expensive strings inadvertently left in their vehicles, including a $4 million cello, and later, a $2.5 million cello belonging to the virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma.
In this case, the taxi was a minivan, a clue that narrowed the search to just eight possible cabs. The next day, the driver was identified and contacted. Mohammed Khalil immediately looked inside his taxi, which had been parked overnight on a Newark street. A man of modest means, it didn’t occur to Mr. Khalil to do something nefarious with the four million dollar Stradivarius he found safe and sound inside.
Instead, he rushed to do the right thing, reuniting the violin with the violinist, who fell to his knees and wept, then emptied his wallet and handed the contents--$100--to Mr. Khalil.
But the real reward wafted over the taxi holding area at Newark Airport two weeks later, when a grateful Philippe Quint gave a special performance of thanks for Mohammed Khalil and 200 of his fellow drivers, as taxis idled and airplanes taxied in accompaniment.
“Anybody out here would have done the same thing,” asserted a modest Mr. Khalil. Moved by the music and the motivation behind it, another audience member noted, “A lost violin brought everyone together.”
Tell us your story: Have you ever lost something of great value and then gotten it back through the kindness of a stranger? Have you ever been the stranger who returned someone’s irreplaceable item?