How we met: ‘She tripped and I caught her before she hit the ground’

In 1997, Hayley was enjoying single life after a divorce, and had no intention of settling down. She worked for a tech company in San Francisco and loved spending her free time with friends. One weekend in August, she booked a trip to Los Angeles to visit the Hollywood Bowl. There were no assigned seats on the flight, and she was separated from her friends during boarding. “I ran to catch up with them,” she says. “There was a bottleneck in the gangway so I was trying to weave my way through.” All of a sudden, she tripped.

“I caught her before she hit the ground,” says Sean, who was living in Santa Rosa and working in communications at the time. “I’d already noticed her at the check-in and thought she was cute.” She thanked him for breaking her fall and then disappeared into the crowd. “My friends started making jokes about women falling at my feet,”

After they landed at Hollywood Burbank airport, he spotted her again in the baggage reclaim hall. “I was in LA for the weekend to go to a show at the House of Blues,” he says. “Even though I knew tickets were sold out, I had this urge to ask her if she wanted to come along.” Since he had no idea what he would have done had she agreed, he was slightly relieved to hear she had other plans. They parted ways, never expecting to see each other again.

But, a few days later, they found they were both taking the same return flight. “I spotted her reading a book at the airport and she smiled at me,” says Sean. When they landed, Hayley asked for his number. “I’d already scribbled it down on an old magazine page on the flight,” he says.

Hayley gave him a call a few days later and they arranged to meet in Tiburon, a town midway between their homes. “He showed up in a suit with flowers and I was gone,” she says. “He reminded me of Cary Grant.” They went for dinner but were too busy chatting to eat much. Sean discovered that Hayley had been born in England, and lived in Germany for several years before settling in California at the age of 19. “I was fascinated by her life and she was interested in me as well. I was smitten straight away,” he says.

They enjoyed a few more dates, but then Hayley began to have doubts. “It was moving very fast and I enjoyed being single. I’d met his friends too and they were quite different to mine,” she says. “I was travelling to Canada in September, so it gave me time to think.” When she returned, she went for dinner with Sean and they realised they wanted to give things a go. “We’d met someone who was our opposite but we were exactly what each other needed,” she says. “He needed to branch out and I needed to slow down.”

Related: How we met: ‘We shared a hug – and I didn’t want to let go’

They married the following year, and had two daughters, born in 1999 and 2010. The couple have lived in different parts of California and now split their time between Santa Rosa and San Francisco. At times they have had to cope with wildfires. “The one in 2020 came right up to our house and took out two of our neighbours’ homes, which was really scary,” says Hayley. They are both grateful they had each other for support during the crisis.

“When we met, I loved travelling and Sean was a small town guy,” says Hayley. “What I love about our lives is that we have combined the best of both. We still feel the same way about each other as we did back in 1997.”

Sean appreciates that Hayley always looks out for the best interests of their family. “She’s super-nurturing and a wonderful mother. After all this time, there are still things I am learning about her.”

Want to share your story? Tell us a little about yourself, your partner and how you got together by filling in the form here