Central Ohio 9-year-old wins hearts, laughs in viral social media post


COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A central Ohio fourth-grader is earning thousands of fans on social media for her precocious banter on a recent flight leaving Columbus.

“I was a tiny bit nervous, but I was also really excited because I love having new friends,” 9-year-old Shawni said about her family trip to Florida this month.

Shawni’s parents say she’s never one to shy away from conversation and happened to be seated next to Kati Hartwig, a digital media specialist from John Glenn International Airport, who was flying to Tampa to visit family.

“It was a full flight. And she and her mom sat next to me,” Hartwig said.

Shawni added, “I said, ‘I’m going to talk to you randomly so be prepared, ok?’”

Hartwig included the first exchange in a Tweet and then updated a Twitter thread with some notable quotes and observations. She initially guessed the girl was 6, but later clarified after the two discussed Shawni’s age and what grade she was soon entering.

One Tweet read, “‘Hey Kati, you know what everyone should do when they get on a plane? Thank the Wright Brothers.’”

“‘We’re going down,’ Another recounted Shawi saying. “She meant we’re landing, but I don’t think the lady in front of us knew what she meant.”

The conversation lasted the duration of the flight before the new friends parted ways for their respective destinations.

“It didn’t actually blow up until the next day,” Hartwig explained about the Twitter thread’s overnight popularity.

A week later, it had garnered hundreds of comments, tens of thousands of retweets and hundreds of thousands of likes. The viral post soon caught the attention of Southwest Airlines and the company coordinated with its Columbus-based gate crew to surprise Shawni upon her return to Central Ohio.

“I didn’t know I was famous until we went to the baggage claim,” Shawni said.

The crew created signs with some of Shawni’s notable quotes and Hartwig greeted the family at the baggage claim to explain how the 9-year-old had become something of an internet sensation.

By Tuesday, the Twitter thread had had more than 36,000 retweets.

“[It’s] because I’m funny,” Shawni said with confidence about her viral conversation.

Hartwig ventured, ““It was a sweet story. It was positive. And I think people were looking for something like that and they just kept sharing it.”

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