At the age of five, Maya Hughes, who was born in America, was living in Sierra Leone with her mother. After suffering a medical emergency, she needed to get back to the US for medical treatment; however, her mother was not able to go with her. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.
Hughes, now 20 years old and living in California, moved to her mother’s home country and was living there for six months before she experienced health-related complications, reported BuzzFeed News.
"It was a life and death-type situation," she tweeted.
Maya's mother, Zee Sesay, made arrangements to get Maya to their relatives in Maryland, but she was unable to leave Sierra Leone. After rushing to the hospital and frantically asking if anyone was also traveling to the US, Zee was pointed in the direction of a man.
"I walked over to this gentleman and asked if he could travel with Maya," Zee told BuzzFeed News. "At first he said no, saying he was traveling to the US for a funeral."
Eventually, the man agreed and boarded the plane with the child.
"I stood by and watched the plane took off and not realizing I had handed my kid off to a complete stranger," Zee told BuzzFeed News. "It was adrenaline, I wasn't in the right state of mind and I wasn't thinking properly ... and that was the end of it. I never again saw this man."
Eventually, Maya landed safely at Dulles International Airport and was met by her grandmother.
This month, Zee’s cousin asked, "Hey, did you ever get in touch with Tom Perriello?"
Zee never knew the name of the man who helped her that day, but she then discovered his email address and sent him a note asking about the incident. He quickly replied to the email and the two have been in touch ever since.
Perriello, who is the executive director of the Open Society Foundation and a former Congressman from Virginia, tweeted that the day was "one of the craziest experiences of my entire life."
"It's an incredibly vivid memory that seems like something out of a movie," Perriello told BuzzFeed News. "It just wasn't clear if it was a happy movie or a sad movie.
He also remembered singing the same verse of the one Krio song he knew for an hour straight to get Maya, who was crying at the time, to calm down during the flight. He also revealed that due to some issues with the connecting flights, he missed his grandmother’s funeral.
However, he didn’t have any regret after seeing how he helped Maya.
"One of the happier moments in my life was seeing Maya run into her grandmother's arms," Perriello said.
Maya and Zee both said they would now like to meet Perriello in person.
"For 15 years I was looking for this ghost," Zee said. "I hope to meet with him to get the opportunity to shake his hand, hug him, and thank him for having done that."
(Photo: Taro Hama / Getty Images)