Sheila stands frozen in her tracks in the airplane. She watches the old man whisper something into the young girl’s ear and she goes as white as a ghost. There was something seriously strange going on, Sheila could just feel it.
But when Sheila stumbled across a crumpled note hidden in the airplane toilet, this happy-go-lucky air stewardess had no idea she was about to uncover something truly horrific, and nothing would ever be the same again.
For Alaska Airlines employee Sheila Fredrick, there was nothing more she loved than conversation. A people’s person at heart, she had been an air steward for a decade.
She was outgoing and confident but she also knew how exactly to do her job. However, when Sheila boarded her flight to San Francisco, she had no idea that she was going to uncover something truly horrific.
Working as an air stewardess for a decade, Sheila thought she had seen it all; drunk and disorderly passengers, marriage proposals, and brawls that wouldn’t look out of place at a wrestling show.
But when she saw an elderly man get on the plane, accompanied by a girl, she immediately felt something was off. And it wasn’t until Sheila questioned the man and girl about their trip, that her suspicion grew to concern.
With hundreds and hundreds of passengers boarding her flight every day, Sheila was used to seeing many faces pass her by.
But when her eyes glanced over at the elderly man’s face, immediately she felt a shiver up her spine. Sheila didn’t know why but this man left an uneasy feeling in her stomach.
As Sheila watched the old man walk around with the girl by his side, she knew something was going on. She saw could see his large hands grip onto her small wrist as he pulled her through the aisles to find their seats.
It was strange that he was flying with a younger girl for such a long distance, but then things became even more unusual.
Sheila could see that the elderly gentleman was kitted out in designer clothing and was looking incredibly sharp. A diamond designer watch clung to his wrist and it sparkled in the light.
Sheila thought he was some kind of successful businessman. And she was right, but it was the kind of business that would leave your blood run cold.
As for the young girl who was accompanying the old man, her clothes were dirty, and her hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed in about a week. She looked incredibly stressed too.
Seeing this Sheila knew she had to something. Her gut told her something strange was going on. But Sheila had to act fast.
Once the man and girl were seated, Sheila went over with a smile slapped between her cheeks. She struck up small talk, but the old man merely grunted all the while the girl was sat next to him, trembling with fear.
Sheila leaned into the little girl and softly asked “are you, ok darling?” But the elderly man wasn’t having any of it.
Every time Sheila asked the girl a question, she didn’t reply, and instead, the older man would merely answer for her. But he was becoming agitated and defensive now.
He started to raise his voice at Sheila and she backed off, walking away while the plane took off in the sky. But when Sheila turned around she saw the older man whisper something into the little girl’s ear, and her face went as white as a ghost.
Sheila knew that girl was in serious trouble. But she only had one chance to help her out. While she assisted with other passengers, Sheila’s eyes and her concentration were fixated on the girl.
When the girl made eye contact with Sheila, the air steward mouthed four words that were going to change her life.
Sheila carefully mouthed “go to the toilet’. She knew it was a risky move, especially with the limited space on an airplane, but Sheila knew that this girl needed help.
She waited for the girl to stand up, then Sheila put a note and pen in the bathroom. It was a fool-proof plan. But when Sheila went to retrieve the note and read what the girl had written, she felt sick to her stomach.
Sheila watched the girl walk into the toilet and slam the door shut. She preyed and preyed that everything would be ok.
But while she waited, she suddenly saw the old man look straight at her and a chill ran up her spine. Had he figured out her plan?
Thankfully, the girl soon emerged from the toilet and went back to her seat next to the old man. She nestled herself in the seat, and Sheila could still see looked terrified.
This was Shelia’s only chance to find out the truth and potentially save a life. She raced over to the bathroom to read the note.
Sheila walked inside the tiny bathroom and saw the note was hidden behind a tap. Quickly, she snatched the note, opened it up, and saw what the girl had written; “Help me.”
Sheila felt a lump in her throat. This was all she needed to prove that something was wrong. Her instincts kicked in and she knew she had to do something. But what was she going to thousand of miles up in the sky?
Sheila raced over to the pilot and told them of the situation. But with an hour and a half left of flying, the pilots knew that every minute left was crucial to ensure the girl was safe.
Would they be able to save the girl? Would they have enough time? Thousands of questions flooded both the pilot and Sheila’s mind. But all they could do was wait.
After speaking to the pilot, Sheila called the San Francisco airport and demanded that the police be there when they landed. There was no way Sheila was going to let the old man get away with this.
And as expected, when they landed, they got word the San Francisco police department was there and waiting.
It was time to put into practice one of the most difficult aspects of her previous training.
It had come from one useful but troubling seminar about this very situation. Sheila positioned herself at the door, held her perfect smile, and waited for them to get near the exit.
She saw hints of the girl’s greasy blonde hair and the man’s expensive suit as the line slowly shuffled down the aisle.
The rest of the passengers had no idea what was about to happen. As the old man came face to face with her, she smiled … and said, “Bye-bye. Have a nice day.”
It was called “standing down.”
As much as someone, especially someone super-caring like Sheila, wanted to jump in the fray and do everything she could to rescue the poor girl, it would end up putting everyone in more danger. She hated it with every bone in her body, but there was no choice.
Even though she wanted to restrain him then and there, all she could do was let them pass. It burned a hole in her stomach to see him grip her wrist tighter and pull her away.
At least there was something else she was allowed to aid in. Spotting the man and communicating briefly with the girl meant she was obligated to do one more thing.
She grabbed her jacket and followed them out, making sure to stay far enough away. The police would want a statement.
It made her sick knowing that he probably felt relief, even joy, thinking he was getting away with it. As she passed through the gate, she saw the authorities. Sheila nodded to the old man.
It happened in seconds. Three large officers, in an impressive series of subtle maneuvers, positioned themselves around the man and separated him from his prisoner.
Shelia ran over, wrapped her jacked around the bone-thin girl, and promised everything was going to be okay. It was satisfying to watch the rest unfold.
More uniforms showed up, hands resting on holsters and eyes hard.
The man turned the same white the young girl had when she was forced to board the plane. She couldn’t help but savor it. However, as his gaze wandered around the crowd, he spotted Sheila.
It might have been simple, but her expression spoke volumes.
Her face said “I know what you tried to do”, “You’re a monster” and “Gotchya.” As she felt the girl start to shiver and slump down – as if her body was finally allowed to rest. Sheila quickly moved her to a free seat. “Thank you,” the girl whispered.
“You’re safe. I won’t let anything happen to you,” Shelia promised.
There was a new wave of concern and protectiveness. She didn’t care if she missed her next shift or got fired. She was going to stay with the girl until she had to leave the airport. What happened in the end?
If it wasn’t for Shelia’s gut feeling, this could have ended very differently.
But things had turned out as best as they could and the girl was free. The story also reached news outlets and exploded across social media. It was good to see a new level of awareness. But after saving the girl’s life, would Sheila and the young girl stay in touch?
The young girl has just recently started college and thanks to Sheila, her future is sure looking bright! The two have stayed in touch, and they often check in with one another every other month or so.
Sheila was hailed a hero by her airline. Who knows what could have happened if she didn’t act on her instincts?