When it comes to flying by plane, people usually fall into either one of two distinct categories: those who think it's a total cinch and those who are anxious beyond belief about being thousands of feet up in the air in what looks like a giant metal bird that has no business being off the ground.
For the latter type, there usually doesn't even need to be any kind of turbulence or plane-related drama for the panic to start kicking in - just being up there is enough to make them feel vulnerable.
And even though I'm personally not afraid of flying, I can sort of understand why it might make some people, especially infrequent flyers, freak out a little.
And I imagine it must be especially intense for people with additional difficulties or conditions such as extreme anxiety or certain disabilities. For instance, being either hearing impaired or sight impaired can't be easy on a flight.
But imagine being both deaf and blind on a flight, and having little to no sense of what is going on around you. Well, that was exactly the case for a recent Alaska Airlines passenger by the name of Tim Cook.
He is both deaf and blind and while the crew onboard tried to make his flight as comfortable as possible, there was, of course, a huge challenge when it came to communication.
Luckily, Tim, who was flying from Boston to Portland, shared a plane with some very compassionate people, who despite not knowing the man, wanted to help ensure he felt safe.
Incredibly, one 15-year-old girl was at the center of all that. Her name is Clara Daly and the way in which she comforted Tom, a total stranger, has been commended by people from all around the world.
Watch as Clara recalls how it all went down:
It all started when the crew turned to the passengers on the plane to help the man by asking if anyone knew American sign language. Clara, who is able to communicate in sign language, had no qualms about helping the man.
For almost six hours, she not only communicated with Tim but also tried as best she could to create a comforting environment for him, considering he could neither see nor hear.
Her selflessness and undeniable compassion were not only praised by onlookers but also by the man himself. Speaking to Portland TV KGW8, he called Clara an "angel".
Another passenger, Lynette Scribner, who was sat next to Tim, shared the story on Facebook, recounting how Clara signed into Tim's hand:
"I saw this gentleman, Tim, in Boston’s Logan airport with the sister he’d been visiting. It appeared he was both deaf and blind, as I observed her signing into his hand for him to feel her words. When he came aboard the plane he had been assigned the middle seat of my row. The kind gentleman who had the aisle seat graciously gave it up for him. At this point Tim was traveling alone. The flight attendants sincerely wanted to assist him, but had no way to communicate."
She continued, reflecting on how everyone on the plane did what they could to help with the situation:
"I watched as they didn’t flinch when he reached out to touch their faces and arms. They took his hand and tried so hard to communicate with him, to no avail. He had some verbal ability, but clearly could not understand them. The man who had given up his seat did his best to assist him with things like opening coffee creamer and putting it in his coffee. When Tim made the attempt to stand up and feel his way to the restroom, his seatmate immediately was up to help him."
Lynette then explained that the flight attendants made an announcement asking if anyone could communicate in sign language, adding:
"That’s when this lovely young woman came into the picture. 15 years old, she learned ASL because she had dyslexia and it was the easiest foreign language for her to learn. For the rest of the flight she attended to Tim and made sure his needs were met. It was fascinating to watch as she signed one letter at a time into his hand. He was able to ‘read’ her signing and they carried on an animated conversation."
She was very impressed with everyone's willingness to pitch in and help provide any sort of relief in the situation:
"I don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being. All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to. 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."
Of course, after the photos of the teenager comforting Tim were posted on social media, they instantly made waves on the internet.
You never know who you're going to meet on a flight. These two women met by chance on a plane and they're now connected by life through a baby boy called Vaughn:
Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before several news outlets began requesting exclusive interviews with Clara.
"English is already a hard language for me," she told CBS Los Angeles. "I saw sign language as a way to communicate without having to read and write."
"They thought that he might need something and they weren't sure how to communicate," Clara continued. "I pressed the call button and then [the flight attendant] came and she said 'So we have a passenger on the plane who's blind and deaf, do you know how to fingerspell?'" Clara recalled. "And I was like, 'Yeah, I totally know how to fingerspell'".
Clara explained that Tim initially told her he wanted some water and asked how long they had left on the flight. She then went back to her seat before a flight attendant asked her to return to Tim's seat as he had asked for her again.
"He didn't need anything. He was just lonely and wanted to talk," Clara said. I was thinking, 'Wow, this is so cool, I hope I don't spell anything wrong'," Clara recalled. "For the last hour of the flight, we just were talking, having a conversation about life. They call you extraordinary but it's just something that you do. He took such joy in a conversation that we take for granted."
Clara Daly and everyone else who came to Tim Cook's aid deserve all the praise in the world. It really warms your heart knowing there are such genuinely loving and selfless people out there.