(KMOV.com) -- The holiday surge in travel also means an increase in items passengers leave behind at the Transportation Security Association's checkpoints. What many travelers do not know, however, is that the TSA has a team of workers that actively works to find the owners of lost items.
A traveler named Matt Kelley was rushing to his family's home in Dallas when he left his watch at a TSA checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The watch originally belonged to Kelley's father, who died when Kelley was four. Kelley told CBS Correspondent Kris Van Cleave that the watch's band was a gift from Kelley's stepfather, whose funeral he was flying home to attend.
"It was kind of a gut punch, how could this one thing happen on this one day?" Matt Kelley asked of his bad luck.
The watch ended up in the TSA's lost and found, one of 18,000 items left by travelers at Newark each year.
A TSA Customer Support Manager, Ofelia Ruiz, has seen "everything imaginable" left behind by travelers. Ruiz's job is to try to return items from the lost and found with their owners.
The lost and found at Newark includes a drawer of drivers' licenses and passports, a closet full of jewelry, coats, computers, lost keys and luggage. Only about 10% of items lost at TSA checkpoints are ever claimed by their owners.
Fortunately for Matt Kelley, the TSA keeps lost items for 30 days. After calling the TSA, he was able to get back his watch in time for his stepfather's funeral.
"It was great to have it back, it meant a lot to have it for the funeral that Friday," Kelley said.
Travelers who think they may have lost items at Lambert International Airport can contact the St. Louis TSA at 314-595-0423. A complete list of TSA Lost & Found contacts can be found at the TSA's website.