Boy Screams in Terror During Transatlantic Flight— One Kind Woman Came to His Rescue
This story is evidence of what a huge difference we can make if we just reach out a hand to someone in need.
Many of us have been on a flight with a crying child. It’s not uncommon for babies and young children to be bored, scared, hungry, or have ear pain due to changing air pressure. It can be annoying, especially for people not used to being around children, but it doesn’t usually last long. Unfortunately, that was not the case on the Brussels Airlines transatlantic flight 501 to New York.
A boy had started wailing loudly, and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. After several minutes, people were getting visibly agitated. Passengers complained, called flight attendants, grabbed noise-cancelling earphones, and even locked themselves in the bathrooms to try to get away from the disquieting sound.
A Kind Woman Jumps Into Action
Fellow passenger Rochel Groner was not one of those people. She doesn’t like to make a scene. “I’m the type of person who would let somebody step on my foot for like half an hour before I would say something,” she admits.
But it was soon evident that this wasn’t simply a tired or cranky child. This child was truly in distress. And there were more than 7 hours to go before the flight would land in New York. Groner’s husband saw a flight attendant get on the phone with the cockpit. He heard the words “emergency landing.”
When the young boy’s cries continued to escalate, Groner felt called to do something. Even though she usually keeps a low profile, she had to admit that she was uniquely qualified to help in this situation. She recognized the boy’s behavior.
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“It was just kind of a shrieking without any words,” Groner said. “I recognized it right away as a child with special needs.”
A former elementary school teacher, Groner now runs Friendship Circle with her husband. The organization pairs teen volunteers with children with special needs.
“I kind of felt this responsibility, like, I know what this is, but I’m not sure if anybody else knows what this is,” she said. She knew that no amount of complaining would help. This child needed help.
More Passengers Get Involved
Groner looked in her own bag for some ideas that would help her calm the boy. She asked her husband if he happened to have a toy, but he didn’t. So the resourceful woman called over a flight attendant and asked for an air sickness bag and a pen. The flight attendant happily obliged.
Groner got up and walked over the boy and his mother. He looked to be about eight years old, but Groner was unable to get much information out of the family. On the surface, they didn’t appear to have much in common. They aren’t from the same country—or the same continent, for that matter. They don’t speak the same language. And yet, the shy, Jewish woman was able to make a connection with the terrified Muslim boy that afternoon as their flight crossed over the Atlantic Ocean.
The first thing Groner noticed was that the boy couldn’t sit down. He was standing by his seat and crying. Rochel started with the simplest of gestures: she extended a hand. Miraculously, the boy took it and immediately started to calm down. Groner led him to a space by an emergency exit where they sat down together.
“I put him in my lap and gave him a firm hug and I just started to rock him,” Groner explained. “You could feel his muscles start to relax.”
Groner reached for the paper air sickness bag and the pen. She traced her hand while the boy, engrossed, watched. After awhile, he, too, started drawing. The tension in the plane dissipated. People started to bring other items that could help: a snack (cookies and orange juice), a travel pillow, and a fidget spinner. The boy, visibly relieved, held the fidget spinner to his cheek.
This Touching Moment Was Documented
Groner’s husband, in awe of his wife, started taking pictures to document the inspiring event. “Friendship could be a life changer,” he said. It certainly was for the young boy and all the passengers on Flight 501 that day.
After the flight, many passengers and flight attendants thanked Groner for standing up and taking action to help the boy. So did the boy’s mother.
We can all learn a lesson from Grober’s small gesture that day. When faced with a situation that is bothering you or which takes you out of your comfort zone, extend a hand. Ask what you can do to help.
Many people go through life sticking to their own path, wrapped up in their own affairs, and don’t pay attention to what’s happening around them. They don’t step out of their personal experience to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. But this story is evidence of what a huge difference we can make if we just reach out a hand to someone in need.