This flight attendant had a gut feeling about human trafficking. So he followed it.

When three young women and a man boarded his flight, Wesley Hirata had a bad feeling.

The seasoned flight attendant, who has been with Hawaiian Airlines for the past 16 years, was concerned when he noticed an older man walking onto the plane with three young women. They didn't seem like they belonged together.

While this usually wouldn't be cause for concern — families come in all different shapes and sizes, after all — Hirata couldn't shake his instincts.


He talked to the group (though what he asked wasn't specified) and still had more questions. So he spoke to his fellow attendants, and they decided to check the manifest. What they found was shocking: All three women were traveling under the same name. One of them, reports stated, was visibly underage.

Hawaiian law enforcement met the plane when it touched down in Honolulu. After questioning, they labeled the situation as human trafficking and referred the case to the FBI. Airline officials and media at the time quickly reported Hirata had uncovered human trafficking for certain.  

As it turned out, the FBI's investigation determined human trafficking had not taken place, but they still praised Hirata's actions.

"We do appreciate Hawaiian Airlines employees for speaking out and saying something and bringing it to our attention," said Jason K. White, spokesman for the Honolulu FBI field office. "We encourage people to remember that if something seems strange or doesn't feel right most times something is wrong, however, that was not the case in this incident."

The FBI eventually confirmed the man was authorized to take the girls on vacation.

Flight attendants are trained to make these kinds of appropriate notifications with a specific aim to curb human trafficking.

In 2015, Congress made it mandatory for flight attendants to be trained in spotting human trafficking. Airline Ambassadors International — a nonprofit made up of airline employees who "travel to make a difference" — holds a yearly seminar on trafficking for flight personnel on an annual basis. And the Association of Flight Attendants, a union with over 50,000 members, has also made stopping the horrible crime of human trafficking an integral part of its mission.

Human trafficking is a global crisis we can all work to end.

According to UNICEF, there are approximately 21 million trafficked people all across the world. 5.5 million of those people are reported to be children. It's not just a crime; it's a business that brings in billions of dollars a year. And that means it's up to all of us to fight to stop it.

So what can you do if you're on a flight and are concerned that someone might be in trouble? "Trust your gut and prior experience [and] report the situation without alarming or confronting the passengers in a suspicious manner," Hirata told KITV 4.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can or should report everything you find suspicious — we've all got to think critically and everyone's got biases — but we should all keep an eye out for signs of trafficking in our communities.

Here's a list of signs to watch out for.

Correction 7/28/2018: A previous version of this story reported Hawaiian law enforcement had confirmed the case as human trafficking, per the airline and on-site media accounts. We have since updated this story to reflect the FBI's announcement.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less