Published: 17:28, 23 September 2019
| Updated: 21:05, 23 September 2019
Six jobless Thomas Cook employees were told to ignore the knocks on the door as they were allowed back into their office to collect their belongings only, this afternoon.
Single mum Victoria Dyson, who is known in the Deal store as Millie, said she burst into tears while collecting items from her desk of almost 20 years while customers stood at the glass doors.
Is there any point in travel agents now?
The 39-year-old who joined the firm in 2001 was one of 22,000 worldwide and 9,000 in the UK who stayed up into the early hours last night to learn of the company's collapse.
She said she and her team had been given no prior warning and learnt the news via the media rather than their employer.
Now, she fears for her elderly customers who might not be computer-literate and may struggle to claim their money back.
She says she will also miss out on a £4,000 bonus but kind comments from the community have inspired her not give up on the travel industry and explore becoming a freelance agent.
She told KentOnline: "I'd hate for my customers to think that we had prior knowledge of this. I heard it via the news. It was quite distressing.
"We were told by our line managers not to go to the store this morning but your instinct is that you feel the least you can do is go to the store. It was our second home but we couldn't."
The team were then told around 1pm that they could visit the store to collect their personal items.
She said: "I could see some customers knocking on the door but admin told us not to open the door. I saw one man say 'Is this it?' and I just burst out crying.
"It was just like, 'Take your stuff and leave' and when you have worked in the store for almost 20 years like I have, you just cannot believe it. We're all just so lost."
Ms Dyson said the team were able to ask questions during a conference call with staff from all over the country, set up by the administrators.
She said it was "just awful" to hear women discuss their financial worries including those on maternity and compassionate leave.
She said: "No one was really angry, it was just fear really."
The global travel group had been trading for 178 years. Staff have been told to make a claim to the government in order to receive payment for their work this month.
Ms Dyson added: "Because my sales in the Deal store have been so good I was due a £4,000 bonus but there's no way I'm going to get it."
She wrote: "For many of you, I stopped seeing you as customers and regarded you more friends. You were all so special to me in many ways.
"From the five-year-old who sat on my knee and helped me press the button to confirm her first holiday to Disney to the 85-year-old man who wept in front of me when booking his first holiday after his wife of 60 years had passed.
"These memories I will cherish in my heart, they made my job so much more than just booking holidays.
"I am so sorry for those of you being affected by this and I am still in shock that it came to this."
The mum-of-one to Harry, 11, who lives in Kingsdown added: "I've been touched by all the comments on Facebook.
"We thought they'd be an influx of angry customers but it's been the opposite.
"I really don't want to leave the travel industry and it's only because after today, having read all the comments, that I think I'll go self employed."
Today's news leaves more than 150,000 Brits stranded abroad.
Among them is former Dover councillor Nathaniel Richards who is holidaying with his wife Bethanie and three children in Zakynthos, better known as Zante, in Greece.
But despite the collapse, he remains in high spirits and told KentOnline he has been advised to continue to enjoy his holiday and not worry about travel arrangements.
He said: "There's no drama.
"We had four reps from Thomas Cook on site mention that we're good to continue as normal.
"We are scheduled to leave on Thursday, October 3."
A disappointed holidaymaker was also facing a 12-hour wait for a flight after the travel firm ceased trading overnight.
Read more: All the latest news from Deal
More by this authorEleanor Perkins