Shortly after an Alaska Airlines flight took off from Logan Airport last week, a flight attendant made a request over the announcement system: Did any passengers know sign language?
Clara Daly, 15, pressed the call button.
The attendants explained they needed her help communicating with Tim Cook, who was traveling alone after visiting his sister in Boston. But since Cook was both deaf and blind, Daly — who had been studying American Sign Language for the past year — would have to sign into his hand.
“This was the first time I was ever able to use it,” Daly told the Globe.
Over the course of the six-hour flight from Boston to Portland, Daly checked in with Cook a few times to see how he was doing and to ask whether he needed anything from the flight attendants. Daly and Cook talked with each other for the last hour of the flight, Daly said.
“He asked me for the names of the people around him,” she said. “He asked me what I want to do for a career and where I wanted to go to school.”
In a recent Facebook post, fellow passenger Lynette Scribner explained what it was like to see Clara use ASL to communicate with Cook. The post has now been shared over 580,000 times.
“It was fascinating to watch as she signed one letter at a time into his hand,” Scribner wrote. “He was able to ‘read’ her signing and they carried on an animated conversation.”
Daly said she had always been “very interested” in sign language and decided to start studying it because she has dyslexia and ASL didn’t require any writing.
Before the flight, Daly and her mother had spent a little less than a week in Marshfield to help her grandmother move.
“I grew up in Marshfield, and so we have a very strong connection to the Boston area because of that,” Jane Daly said. “Even though I’ve been living in California for most of my life now, we still go back every summer.”
Jane Daly said she felt proud when her daughter volunteered to help Cook.
“I wasn’t at all surprised that Clara jumped up because that’s kind of who she is,” she said.
Daly and her mother were initially planning to take a direct flight from Boston home to Los Angeles, but it was canceled. They were then put on a flight with layover in Portland — the same plane as Cook.
“When we got to Portland, that’s when Clara kind of said, ‘I think it was meant to be that our flight was canceled so I could be on this flight to help him,’ ” Jane Daly said.Sophia Eppolito can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.