Earlier this week, Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater became an overnight sensation when news of his resignation – which involved grabbing a few beers and jumping off of the airplane via an inflatable slide -- spread like fire on the internet.
Slater, who abruptly quit after taking verbal abuse from a female passenger on Monday after Jet Blue flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport safely landed, has won over the hearts of the American public and many are calling him a hero.
After a passenger’s luggage fell from an overhead compartment and hit him on the head, Slater proceeded to the front of the plane to make this reported onboard announcement: “To the passenger that just called me (expletive): (Expletive) you. I’ve been in the business for 28 years and I’ve had it.”
Slater, 38, was arrested on Tuesday for reckless endangerment and other charges and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted. He smiled as police led him away in handcuffs.
Soon after, countless YouTube videos, Twitter messages and a “Free Steven Slater” campaign hit the Web. Late-night hosts praised his actions. Saturday Night Live comedian Seth Meyers took to his Twitter page to say, “[The] woman who hit him in head should spend life in prison.” And the response nationwide has been enormous.
More than 117,000 fans have already joined the “Steven Slater” Facebook page, writing comments on his wall such as “You are a super star!” and “I wish more people had the guts to stand up for what they believe in.” More than 27,000 fans have joined the “Free Steven Slater” page.
Although Slater has since been freed on $2,500 bail, Facebook fans are already donating money to help him finance future legal expenses.
A 23-year-old pilot, Gary Baumgarder from Seattle, was so moved by the news that he set up a “Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund” and PayPal account. He was also the one behind the creation of the Facebook page and group. The fund has already raised $2,000 in donations.
News of the event is also storming the Twitter world, many using the hash-tag “#teamslater” to show their support.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Mann -- who’s “iPhone 4 Antenna Song” was played by Apple at the start of the Antennagate press conference -- is among the various musicians who created a song on YouTube to recount the incident. His song “The Ballad of Steven Slater” includes such lyrics as “he grabbed a beer and spoke his mind … you said what we've been dying to say.”
Although no one on board the flight captured the scene on film, there has been much speculation on the sequence of events. However, a Hong Kong website called Apple Daily has created a computer animation to help illustrate the time line of the actions, and the video has been making the rounds online.
Companies are also cashing in on the news. For example, t-shirt company DonkeyTs.com, is already offering a “Quit Your Job with Style – Team Slater” shirt for $18, which shows a man jumping onto an inflatable slide.
Many are saying the reason behind Slater's instant-star success is, as one Facebook fan said, "It was time someone took a stand.”