This woman was fat-shamed on a flight. But her story has a happy ending.

On May 14, one of Savannah Phillips' most dreaded flying fears came to life.  

"I’m not the biggest person on the airplane, but I’m not the smallest," Phillips explained in a Facebook post. "My worst nightmare is someone being uncomfortable because they have to sit next to me."

Fearful of the harassment and even threats people with bigger bodies can face while flying, Phillips usually tries to buy a seat where she's not sitting next to another passenger.


GIF via News Channel 5/YouTube.

But on a flight from Oklahoma to Chicago, Phillips was assigned a seat at the gate and wasn't able to sit alone. Unfortunately, the man who ended up next to her embodied the very worst.

"I can't believe this, I'm sitting next to a smelly fatty."

Those were the words the stranger, an older man who claimed to be a comedian, texted someone else — while sitting right next to Phillips on the plane. A setting on the man's phone enlarged the text, according to Phillips, and the screen's brightness was turned all the way up.

It was unmistakably about her.

GIF via News Channel 5/YouTube.

The nasty comment immediately brought Phillips to tears.

"I don’t even know what the rest of his text said," she wrote in her post. "I turned my head away as fast as I could. I was shocked and it was like confirmation of the negative things I think about myself on a daily basis."

Phillips continued:

"Before I knew it, I could feel hot, salty tears coming down my face. I sat and cried silently, hoping this guy didn’t try to make small talk, because I didn’t trust how I would react and I didn’t want to get kicked off the plane. I was so hurt. The pilot came over head and said there would be a 30-minute delay before he could take off — great. Just more time I would have to sit next to this creep."

Fortunately, that's when things took a turn for the (much, much) better.

Fellow passenger Chase Irwin sitting nearby had spotted the incredibly hurtful text and decided to step in.

He couldn't believe what he was witnessing.

"I actually got really sick to my stomach," Irwin explained to News Channel 5.

GIF via News Channel 5/YouTube.

Irwin tapped the "comedian" on the shoulder and demanded he change seats with him, according to Phillips. The "comedian" agreed to switch, but then asked why.

Irwin did not hold back. "I said, 'because you're a heartless person,'" Irwin recalled. "I read your text, and the girl next to you crying also read your text. And you should really take into consideration other people's feelings.'"

I am only sharing this story of what happened to me today in hopes that the person who stuck up for me will somehow be...

Posted by Savannah Phillips on Monday, May 14, 2018

Phillips and Irwin got along great, chatting about their families and jobs on the flight to Chicago. The flight attendant, who learned about what happened, kept trying to give Irwin free drinks and said that he was her hero, according to Phillips.

"He wasn’t her hero," Phillips wrote. "He was mine."

Fortunately, Phillips' story had a happy ending. But for passengers with bigger bodies, that's not always the case.

"Flying while fat" can truly be a daunting affair. There's the staring, the rude comments — not to mention navigating a patchwork of guidelines that complicate purchasing a ticket for an increasingly small seat on a plane.

But as Irwin showed, employing some basic empathy for your fellow passengers can go a long way. We should all keep that in mind when we travel.

Watch News Channel 5's segment on Phillips' story below:

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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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.

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