Maggie Musgrave was sitting, alone, in Miami International Airport, crying.
It was a Sunday evening in summer 2011. Thunderstorms were raging over Miami, and the airport departure area was getting increasingly crowded, with stranded travelers fighting for seats as plane after plane was grounded.
Maggie, then 28, was on her way home to Washington DC after spending the weekend in Florida at her bachelorette party. While she was grateful to her friends for organizing a fun few days’ celebrations, now the hangover was kicking in and something worse was lingering underneath: Maggie had a sinking feeling that her upcoming wedding was a huge mistake.
“I was thinking I was making the wrong decision getting married,” Maggie tells CNN Travel today. “I remember being in the airport and thinking, ‘Oh, goodness, I don’t know if this is the right move.’ And being really emotional.”
As she wiped away tears, Maggie heard the sound of barking. She looked up to see an excitable dog lapping at her knees.
“I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I could really use a pet from this dog,’” Maggie recalls. She greeted the animal enthusiastically, giving him a belly rub.
Right behind the dog was a woman – seemingly his owner – rushing up to apologize.
“Oh hi, I’m sorry!” said the stranger.
“No it’s fine, it’s fine,” said Maggie, still petting the dog, who was now licking her hand happily.
“I’m Cindy,” said the woman. “He’s Deniro,” she added, gesturing to her dog.
“Like Robert?” asked Maggie.
Cindy explained that yes, her dog was named for actor Robert De Niro – she’d grown up loving “The Godfather” movies. Maggie told Cindy she also had a dog with a cinematic namesake: Scarlett O’Hara, after the protagonist of “Gone With the Wind.”
Instantaneously, the two women established an easy rapport. Maggie and Cindy were the same age, both dog lovers, both film fans. And they were both waiting for the same grounded flight back home to Washington DC.
“We hit it off immediately,” Cindy tells CNN Travel today.
When Cindy crossed paths with Maggie at the airport, she was also questioning some of her life choices. Cindy was working a job she hated, desperate to leave but worried that finding something new wouldn’t be easy. She’d earned her Master’s degree in the middle of the recession, and jobs still felt sparse.
“I actually had this desperation – ‘What’s my future going to look like?’” Cindy recalls.
Maggie and Cindy chatted as they waited for their flight, both women finding solace in one another’s company.
Cindy had noticed Maggie’s tears – “she collected herself when I approached to grab Deniro,” she recalls – but didn’t press for details on what was going on.
“I did not want to seem too intrusive. I figured if we talk it will get her mind off of things,” Cindy recalls.
Sure enough, Maggie found chatting to Cindy, who was open, friendly and exuded kindness, a welcome distraction from her worries about the upcoming wedding. Plus, Deniro the dog was charming and sweet, offering comfort and cuddles.
And when Cindy mentioned the issues with her job, Maggie told her she might be able to help Cindy start over. She worked as a recruiter at a staffing agency – finding people the perfect role was her job.
The two women spent over an hour deep in conversation. And when the flight was eventually called, they swapped details – promising to get back in touch when they were home in DC.
“I just met this really wonderful girl,” Cindy told her boyfriend when he picked her up at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Maggie also gushed about her new friend to her then-fiancé, although she left out the context.
“I did not tell him that I was crying, when I met her, about not wanting to marry him.”
Back in DC, Maggie and Cindy started messaging back and forth. They arranged to reunite the following week, dogs in tow.
“We met up for lunch with our pups, who also hit it off,” recalls Cindy.
Chatting over Lebanese food, the two women picked up where they’d left off at the airport.
Their rapport, says Maggie, felt “super natural.”
As the lunch stretched on, the two only grew more comfortable in one another’s presence. And Deniro and Scarlett O’Hara followed suit.
“When the dogs connected and we realized how close we live to each other in DC, that only strengthened it,” says Maggie.
Maggie and Cindy learned they were alike in small ways – they both love fall, calling the season where the leaves turn auburn their favorite of year – and in bigger ways – they both share the same Catholic faith, for example.
“Maggie’s energy was very similar to my energy,” adds Cindy. “We had a lot of common interests and still have – we both aligned in our political thoughts and we both aligned on the types of movies we liked.
“And of course the puppy life. We never found something not to talk about. She’s very extroverted. I’m extroverted. So it just worked out.”
Maggie and Cindy agreed to meet again.
Time passed, and these meet-ups became more and more frequent.
Maggie was committed to helping Cindy find a new job. Whenever something came up that could be suitable, she’d forward it Cindy’s way.
Despite her reservations, Maggie went through with her wedding. Later down the line, she and her husband separated. Cindy supported Maggie throughout.
“I think it helped down the road that I was an outlet that didn’t know him, for Maggie to talk about her feelings and her situations after she was married,” says Cindy. “I was there to lend an ear.”
Cindy calls their conversations a “judgment-free zone” and stresses this went both ways.
“We could very much talk to each other honestly.”
About a year after meeting Cindy at the airport, Maggie started working as an inhouse recruiter. A job came up at her company that she thought Cindy would be perfect for, and she suggested her friend apply.
To Cindy and Maggie’s mutual delight, Cindy got the job. The two women became work colleagues, and were able to spend even more time together.
“We would have lunches and celebrate each other’s birthdays and have our coffee – maybe way too many during Pumpkin Spice Latte season,” says Cindy.
“Cindy actually threw me a birthday party one year at the office,” recalls Maggie. “It was pumpkin themed.”
In return, Maggie baked Cindy a birthday carrot cake, knowing it was her friend’s favorite. Maggie navigated the DC Metro on a freezing day in February, cake in hand, to surprise Cindy at the office.
Maggie and Cindy’s lives became more and more intertwined, with Maggie becoming close with many of Cindy’s friends.
“Her energy is infectious,” says Cindy. “Every one of my friends, they all get on with Maggie and they love her.”
After her divorce, Maggie started dating again. When she was vetting prospective partners, she’d take the men on double dates with Cindy and Cindy’s boyfriend.
Deniro and Scarlett O’Hara also continued enjoying each other’s company, and Maggie and Cindy would often dog sit for each other.
When Cindy got engaged in 2015, there was “no question” that Maggie would be among her bridesmaids. By then, the stranger she’d met at the airport was one of her closest friends.
“I wanted the most important and supportive people in my life to be my bridesmaids. The people who made me feel proud about myself,” says Cindy. “Maggie was one of them, since she had not only become such a good friend over the years, but was also the reason for my career and success.”
“I was ecstatic to be Cindy’s bridesmaid,” recalls Maggie. “Her friends adore her and being the newest friend to the group was humbling and beautiful.”
Today, Maggie and Cindy no longer work together, and Maggie no longer lives in DC.
But while the two women don’t see one another as often as they used to, their friendship remains strong. Whenever Maggie and Cindy reunite, they feel like no time has passed. And when they’re apart, they root for each other from afar.
“No matter where she is, I love the idea that we’re there – we’re always going be there,” says Maggie. “And I love that, it’s effortless.”
Cindy still lives in DC, now with her husband and her young daughter. Maggie was there at Cindy’s baby shower, to help her welcome her child. Today, Cindy loves her job, and credits her current career success to Maggie.
“Who knows where I would be today – and if I would have had any of the same sense of accomplishment – had we never crossed paths,” she says.
Since Maggie moved away from DC, she’s lived in Chicago, New York and Florida. Most recently, she moved to Los Angeles. She’s currently on a six-month sabbatical traveling with her partner in his camper van, visiting American ski resorts.
“It is interesting, because I thought my life was going to take a completely different trajectory,” says Maggie, reflecting on meeting Cindy on the eve of her marriage.
“I didn’t keep the husband, kept the friend,” she adds, laughing.
“My life has been consistently inconsistent but the things that stay true are my authentic friendships, my ‘framily.’ I never feel lost because I have Cindy in my life.”
Sadly Deniro and Scarlett O’Hara have both passed away, but Maggie and Cindy supported each other through those losses, and enjoy sharing memories of their dogs with each other. And they still credit Deniro for bringing them together in the first place.
Both Maggie and Cindy say their random airport meeting and subsequent enduring friendship taught them the importance of practicing openness, especially when traveling.
“You never know how that is going to change your life, or how that’s going to turn out,” says Cindy. “I still think it’s crazy that one of my closest friends was someone I met at the airport.”
“Be vulnerable,” agrees Maggie. “I was crying. I didn’t even know if I wanted to meet anyone new.”
The two also stress the importance of following up if you meet a potential friend on your travels.
“Taking the initiative after, if you feel that connection,” says Maggie. “It doesn’t matter what age you are – don’t be embarrassed. Email that person back, be excited, say yes.”
While Maggie and Cindy have shared many special memories over their decade of friendship, they’ve never traveled together, and haven’t sat side by side in an airport since they first met in the Miami International Airport departures hall 12 years ago. They both say they’d love to go on an adventure together one day.
“I know Maggie and I will continue to share memories until we are in our 90s or older,” says Cindy. “Perhaps we will travel the world together after we retire. See what other chance encounters we may come across while waiting in airports.”
Top photo of Cindy Jarrin, left, and Maggie Musgrave, right, courtesy Brittany DeFrehn