On their way back from a weeklong vacation at Disney World, the Vaughn family of Moore, Okla., ran into a flight delay at Dallas Love Field on Friday night.
The only open seats Joe Vaughn, his wife and their two little girls could find in the terminal were right next to the windows.
“We just kind of let them play and be silly,” said Vaughn, 31, a youth pastor. “One of the tarmac guys down there, I guess he saw them and started interacting with them.”
What began as a simple wave from a friendly Southwest Airlines employee quickly became a full-on dance-off as the employee started dancing — and the girls started mimicking him, giggling as they kicked their legs, waved their arms like airplane wings and did the ol’ chicken dance.
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Vaughn grabbed his cell phone and posted a few seconds of the fun to his Facebook page. That little bit of video went viral over the weekend, and now Vaughn can’t keep track of all the media people who have called him from across the country.
By now, hundreds of thousands of people have seen his little girls dance.
“It put a smile on my face when I saw it live, and I had no idea it was going to go viral,” he said. “It’s definitely a joy just to spread some, maybe, Christmas cheer. With all the stuff going on in the world, you kind of stop and see two little girls laugh and giggle and dance, and it’s funny.”
Vaughn and his wife, Andrea, who runs an in-home day care, and the girls had been at Disney World since Dec. 8. The girls are wearing their new Disney World sweatshirts in the video. Tinlee, 5, is in the red. Brynlee, 3, is in the green.
Though he only posted a few seconds, the dancing went on for several minutes as the employee stopped to do his work, then looked back up at the girls and kept dancing, Vaughn said.
The girls like to dance.
“This is not unusual for them,” said Vaughn, who added that they don’t get their moves from mom or dad. “They do that all the time. That’s their natural state ... they’re goofy little kids.”
The girls like to mimic kid videos on YouTube, he said, “so when the employee started dancing, they started doing it, too.”
Between the dancing and the briefly delayed flight home, the girls were “basically wiped out” by the time the family got home, said Vaughn.
When he posted the initial 55-second video, his sister-in-law suggested he tag the local TV stations in Oklahoma. People couldn’t see the video because of his privacy settings, so he switched them to public.
Once the video hit TV, it went viral, and he’s been fielding calls from media ever since. “It’s been a little crazy,” he said.
He had heard through the media grapevine that Southwest planned to recognize the employee for the gesture. On Monday he received a call from the airline confirming that.
“A simple wave of the hand to the girls would have been fine,” he said. “But he made a connection with them ... he went above and beyond.”