This is a story about a viral video. It's about how quickly things spread in the digital age--and once again, how long-lasting reputations can be made in a few otherwise unmemorable minutes aboard an airplane.
The Delta Airlines passenger who shot a quick, 45-second video of another passenger's outburst, and then put it on her personal Facebook page, said Saturday she's been completely surprised at how quickly it went viral, and how far it spread.
And, she said she feels sorry for the woman in the video, who was later identified in news reports and who has reportedly been put on leave from her job in state government as a result of the incident.
"I kind of feel bad for this lady. I don't know her story, she doesn't know mine. It might have been a misunderstanding. I was sharing [the video] for family members, and it started going crazy," the passenger who shot the video, Marissa Rundell, told me.
Rundell and I spoke after my original article about this incident was published.
Rundell, 19, said she had been traveling with her eight-month-old son to visit her brother in Brooklyn, and was returning home on a Delta Airlines flight from JFK to Syracuse on Feb. 6.
Her entire interaction with the woman in the video, identified in other news reports at Susan Peirez, lasted no more than two minutes.
"Before the video [starts], she was the last person on the fight," Rundell said, "and she came back and started swearing about being in the back of the plane. I said, please don't use that language in front of my son, and she didn't even recognize I was there. She started swearing again."
Rundell said she asked the woman again not to talk like that in front of her son, and that the woman replied, "Shut up and shove it."
At that point a flight attendant stepped in, and Rundell started recording on her phone.
The woman later identified as Peirez is shown in the video saying that she works for the governor, and warning the flight attendant that she "might not have a job tomorrow."
In its aftermath, Peirez was reportedly put on leave from her $95,000-a-year job at the N.Y. State Council on the Arts. (I've reached out to Peirez via Facebook for comment; here's my contact form in case she reads this and didn't get that message.)
As for the video, Rundell said: "I posted it before we even took off. I thought, my family's going to want to see this. By the time we landed my entire family had seen it."
Three days passed without much comment, but on Feb. 9, she said she started to hear from strangers--both Facebook users who'd seen it shared, and eventually reporters.
"I don't [often] post really anything," on Facebook, Rundell added. "This was a one-time thing and it happened. ... I totally was caught off guard with everyone who has been watching it. I didn't even realize that many people could see what I was posting."