When things don’t go our way, the natural reaction is to ask ‘why me?’ Yet, when life deviates from our plans, it opens us up to opportunities we could never have imagined.
When a California woman and her 15-year-old daughter found out their flight plans were changed at the last minute, they were frustrated by what they thought was an inconvenience. However, after boarding their new flight, the teenager realized the change of plan was really fate at work…
Every summer, a teenager from Calabasas, California travels across the country with her parents for a family vacation to visit her grandmother who lives in Marshfield, Massachusetts. This year, the trip was especially important as they were going to use the vacation time to for more than just leisure activities.
A Service Trip
While in Massachusetts, the teenager and her parents planned to help her grandmother pack and move house. After a couple of exhausting days spent carrying boxes, cleaning, and setting up the new house, the family started to prepare for their trip home when they got some bad news…
As scheduled, the family traveled from Marshfield to Boston to make their non-stop return flight back to California from Boston Logan International Airport on June 18. However, while the family was preparing for the cross-country trip, they found out the flight had been canceled.
At first, the 15-year-old teenager and her parents were disappointed that the flight had been canceled, especially since the only available flight to the west coast was to Oregon, which was out of the way and would take more time to get home…
The New Plan
“Our original flight from Boston was canceled (of course!) so Alaskan Airline placed us on an earlier flight out,” Jane Daly said about the unexpected changes to her and her daughter, Clara’s, travel plans. “Clara and I made a mad dash to the airport to make the new flight!”
Meant To Be
After scrambling to the airport, Jane and Clara made it just in time and boarded the Alaskan Airline flight from Boston to Portland. From there, they would get on a connecting flight to Los Angeles. It wasn’t until the flight took off, however, that Clara realized fate wanted her to be on that particular plane…
An Unusual Request
“About 30 minutes into the flight the speaker-com goes off and they ask if anyone knows sign language,” the 15-year-old sophomore explained. “I took a year of sign language, so I look at my mom before I press the button for a flight attendant.”
A Foreign Language
For the last year, Clara has been studying American Sign Language in school as her foreign language. According to Clara, she has dyslexia which would make learning another foreign language more difficult than it already is…
Turning A Weakness Into A Strength
“English is already a hard language for me,” said Clara. “I saw sign language as a way to communicate without having to read and write.” So when she heard the flight attendant asking if anyone knew sign language, she didn’t hesitate to see if she could help even though she had only been studying the language for a year.
A Passenger In Need
“So then I pressed the call button,” Clara explained. “And then she came, and she said ‘so we have a passenger on the plane who’s blind and deaf, so do you know how to fingerspell?’ And I was like, ‘yeah I totally know how to fingerspell…’”
Finding A Way To Communicate
“They thought that he might need something and they weren’t sure how to communicate,” said Clara. The flight attendant brought Clara over to the passenger, Tim Cook, who was traveling home to Portland after visiting his sister in Boston.
Expressing His Needs
“I like knelt down into the aisle and I just put my hands inside his hands and I started asking like ‘How are you?’ ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Do you need anything?’” Clara said. “He told me that he needed some water so then [flight attendants] got him some water…”
A Helping Hand
After helping Tim get water, Clara returned a second time to give him an update on how much time was left on the flight. Clara went back to her seat, but shortly after that a flight attendant returned and explained that Tim needed her help again.
A Cherished Interaction
“The flight attendant then said, ‘He’s been asking for you. I think he just wants someone to talk to,’ so we talked for the remaining hour,” said the 15-year-old, who was happy to talk to Tim as she could see how happy it made him to not feel so alone. “It’s good to make someone feel like they’re not as alone as they might have thought that they were. It’s important for more people to learn the language…”
“I was thinking ‘wow this is really cool, I hope I don’t spell anything wrong’,” said Clara. For the remainder of the flight, Clara knelt on the ground and sign spelled to Tim, who asked about her trip to Massachusetts and what her future plans were.
Tim also opened up to Clara about his own past working as a salesman before losing both his vision and hearing. “He told me when he was growing up he became hard of hearing and as he got older he got worse and his vision narrowed until he couldn’t see anymore…”
Clara told Tim that she wanted to become a politician as her goal is to help people living with disabilities. “He said he would vote for me if he was still alive by then,” Clara said. “When we landed I signed him bye and he asked if he could give me a hug bye, so we hugged and then we parted ways.” After exiting the plane, Tim was met by an aid from his senior living facility, who explained that Tim said that the flight was the best he’s ever taken.
A Viral Sensation
Clara hadn’t realized, however, that while she was talking with Tim, a fellow passenger and the flight attendants had snapped a few photos of the heartwarming interaction. Since being shared online, the story of Clara’s act of kindness has quickly gone viral around the world. “I think it’s weird that like it’s getting so much attention,” said Clara. “Doing something like that is just like what anyone would have done…”
Good People Still Exist
“I don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being,” fellow passenger Lynette Scribner said. “Huge kudos to the flight attendants of Alaska Airlines who went above and beyond to meet Tim’s needs. I can’t say enough about this beautiful young woman named Clara who didn’t think twice about helping her fellow passenger… It was a beautiful reminder, in this time of too much awfulness, that there are still good, good people who are willing to look out for each other.”
A Sign Of Fate
“After the flight, Clara told me that she thought it was meant to be that our original flight was canceled and we were placed on this flight so that she could be there to help this man,” said Jane, who was incredibly proud of her daughter. “I think everything happens for a reason,” Clara explained. “I got put on a flight where I had a purpose and was given a use.”