Lessons learned for traveling photographers:
1. Always, always, always carry your cameras with you and enough equipment to be able to shoot your job, even if a checked bag does not arrive at your destination when you do.
2. Do not freak out and cancel the shoot. Think about it and work with the situation you have at hand. I didn't require an umbrella or softbox for these portraits...I needed a large light source. The bed sheet and reflected speed light filled that requirement nicely.
3. Don't get mad at anyone else. The people you are asking for help from did not cause any of the issues you are dealing with, so don't make it their issue. You'll get further by asking for help and being grateful than barking out orders and demands and making everyone miserable around you.
The equipment did not end up getting lost, it just happened to be following 12 hours behind me on my trip. I traveled from Rochester through Philadephia to get to Detroit. By the time I had finished shooting the job and was leaving the Sheraton to go back to the Detroit airport to head home to Rochester, the bag was being delivered to the hotel. I asked the hotel to refuse it if it was delivered, so it was returned to the Detroit airport. I flew to Washington D.C. (Dulles airport), at which point my flight back home to Rochester was cancelled and I was rescheduled on another flight 24 hours later. My bag, however, was flown from Detroit to Atlanta and then to Rochester. It traveled 1,000 more miles than I did, went to different cities, and was delivered to my home by the airline...12 hours before I arrived home.
Delta Airlines was not the reason for the missing/delayed bag...I had to switch airlines to Delta halfway through my trip from Rochester to Detroit, and my bag never made the switch with me. However, Delta Airlines did whatever they could to get the bag on it's way and get it to me....even though I flew from USAir to Delta Airlines to United Airlines on this trip. Kudos to Delta Airlines for saving me from losing over $700 worth of equipment....and the rubber ducky in my toiletry bag.