Sheila Fedrick is being hailed as a hero after the flight attendant spotted a disheveled girl on a flight and discovered that she was a victim of human trafficking — a story that’s now going viral online.
The Alaska Airlines employee shared her story of the harrowing incident, which happened on a plane that boarded in Seattle back in 2011. In an interview with NBC News, Fedrick said that something looked out of place as the girl was a mess with greasy blonde hair but accompanied by an older, well-dressed man.
Sheila Fredrick said she tried to talk to the girl, but the man grew defensive, and she wasn’t able to get to the bottom of the situation.
That’s when Fredrick got an idea.
“I left a note in one of the bathrooms,” Fedrick told NBC News (via the New York Daily News). “She wrote back on the note and said, ‘I need help.’ ”
After the desperate plea from the girl, Sheila Fredrick told he pilot, who alerted authorities in San Francisco. When the plane landed, police were waiting, and the girl was rescued.
Though the incident happened more than five years ago, Sheila Fedrick’s quick-thinking heroism has gone viral this week thanks to a training workshop offered to help spot human trafficking. The workshop, held by the non-profit group Airline Ambassadors, was meant to coincide with the Super Bowl. As with many large-scale events — like the FIFA World Cup — the Super Bowl is a target for human trafficking as young girls are often brought to the city for prostitution.
As Fox News noted, human trafficking is a major problem in the United States.
“It’s estimated that more than 50,000 women and girls are trafficked into the United States for prostitution each year, reports The Washington Post. Last year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 2,000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims.”
The problem of human trafficking is also on the rise, the New York Daily News added.
“In 2016, human trafficking rose 35.7% in the U.S compared to the previous year, according to new data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline,” the report noted.
As Airline Ambassadors noted, flight attendants are an important part of spotting and reporting human trafficking, and receive training one some of the warning signs. The organization noted that the humanitarian crises arising from wars in the Middle East have worsened the problem.
“The [human trafficking] training was especially relevant given the mass migration of Syrian refugees through Hungary,” the organization noted at its conference this year. “Migrant and desperate populations become vulnerable, and recipients were very grateful for the warm coats water and food provided by our team at the border. Participants just wished they could do more to ease the human suffering of this humanitarian crisis.”
Sheila Fedrick’s story also went viral with a bit of help from Reddit. A post of her picture became the top story on the link-sharing site on Monday, with her story getting more than 100,000 votes from users. That helped the story of the heroic flight attendant spread across social media, with many people happy to share a happy story amid a frightening crisis.
And the story of the girl rescued by Sheila Fedrick has an even happier ending. The flight attendant said she put her phone number on a note to the girl, who memorized the number and called a few weeks later. The two stayed in contact since then, and Fedrick said the girl is now attending college.
[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]