A Long Career
After working in the field for ten years, flight attendant Sheila Fredrick was well-known for her compassion, commitment to excellence and her ability to adapt to any situation on the ground or in the air. However, during one flight she noticed a girl sitting next to the window looking very suspicious, and what happened next would completely change her life forever.
One thing Sheila was known for throughout her long career at Alaska Airlines was her positive attitude and a big smile. She took her job very seriously and put the needs of her passengers above all else.
Everything would change in 2011 on one fateful day when she noticed something very strange on one of her flights.
From Seattle to San Francisco
It was a normal day at work as Sheila greeted her passengers boarding a flight from Seattle to San Francisco. It was a short flight, but one that would change her world as well as one passenger’s life forever.
You won’t believe what happened.
Overworked and Under-appreciated
The life of a flight attendant is not easy. You work long hours, constantly travel and put the needs of others above your own. However, the flight attendant is such a crucial part of every flight to make sure passengers are comfortable and have all they need throughout the flight.
All around the world, incidents happen in the air. Planes can be hijacked, passengers can become unruly and even there can sometimes even be equipment failure. During these incidents, you’ll usually find flight attendants stepping up to the plate.
However, in Sheila’s case…things were a little bit different.
Something Not Right
As Sheila was making her rounds on the flight, she noticed something wasn’t right with a certain passenger. There was something odd about the girl sitting next to the window, but Sheila couldn’t quite figure out what. Was it possible she was just tired? She didn’t think so and knew she needed someone to confirm her suspicions.
A Strange Appearance
According to Sheila the girl had a very messy appearance and was wearing very odd clothes. She refused to make eye contact with anyone and it didn’t seem like she had any family with her. However, it was the man sitting next to her that really alarmed Sheila.
A Sharp Contrast
While the girl sitting next the man looked almost homeless, he looked very wealthy. He wore expensive clothing and next to the girl, there was something very weird about him. Why did he look like he was stepping off of Wall Street and the girl looked like she came from a slum?
More Questions Than Answers
As Sheila continued to dwell on the girl and the man, she just knew in her heart something was amiss. She told Business Insider, “Something in the back of my mind said something was not right. He was well-dressed. That’s what got me because I thought why is he well-dressed and she is looking all disheveled and out of sorts?”
Another alarm in Sheila’s head was triggered when she realized neither the man or the girl were speaking to one another. The girl seemed quite uncomfortable and the man did not have an open expression that would invite communication.
However, Sheila was not one to take a hint and marched right up to the man.
Exhausted and Signs of Abuse
As Sheila got closer, she realized that the little girl was roughly 14 or 15 and was bruised and dirty. There were definite signs of abuse. Sheila tried talking to them, but the man got quite defensive, wishing to be left alone.
A Sense of Urgency
Sheila knew she had to speak with the girl in order to fully assess the situation, but didn’t know how to get her alone. She thought about it for a moment and then had a plan, however she would have to be very careful in executing it.
A Simple Note
Sheila wrote a note for the girl, asking her if she was okay or needed help. She caught the girl’s attention and held up the slip of paper, before placing it in the airplane’s bathroom. Sheila hoped that the girl would be able to get to the bathroom and read it without the man noticing.
A Lucky Break
The girl asked the man who was with her if she could use the restroom and he agreed. She entered the bathroom, not making eye contact with Sheila and a few moments later reemerged and went back to her seat. Sheila waited until she was situated before entering the bathroom and looking at the note.
The response the girl had written left her speechless.
“I need help,” was written on the slip of paper. Sheila immediately put the puzzle together and realized the girl was about to be a victim of human trafficking. She immediately alerted her fellow staff members, and they quickly contacted the pilot.
Phoning the Police
Once the note was shown to the pilot and Sheila filled him in, the plane radioed ahead to San Francisco requesting the police meet them at the gate. They knew they couldn’t spook the man with the girl and all went about their business as usual. Of course, Sheila was nervous, and wouldn’t be able to relax until the man was in handcuffs.
When the flight landed, the police immediately boarded the plane and arrested the man. The girl smiled at Sheila, realizing she was saved from a very dark fate. It was a moment that changed her life, as well as Sheila’s forever.
The Rise of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking efforts have increased over the years and in 2009 airlines began implementing training, so flight staff could recognize the signs. The most common signs include the appearance of being controlled, bruises, battery and not making eye contact.
The Importance of Training
Sheila believes her training played an important role in saving the girl’s life. “I’ve been a flight attendant for 10 years and it’s like I am going all the way back to when I was in training and I was like, I could have seen these young girls and young boys and didn’t even know, ” she stated.
A Good Deed
For Sheila, it was just another day on the job, but for the young girl, she saved it was a new chance at life. It just goes to show that love, compassion and doing good for others is what this world needs.