Lisa Stephenson knew something was amiss when two teenage girls walked into the restaurant where she works as a waitress, the Blue Crab Grill in Newark, Delaware, and applied for jobs.
“They said they were traveling and their phones and wallets were stolen in New York,” Stephenson told the Bangor Daily News. “I guess that was their story — they were trying to get money.”
Stephenson thought it was odd that the teens showed up on a school day and didn’t leave addresses on their applications.
“Of course, it didn’t add up,” she said.
Worried that the girls were in a bad area near a truck stop, Stephenson searched for them online and found a woman in Brunswick, Maine, was searching for her 16-year-old daughter who had disappeared with a 14-year-old friend, along with a car belonging to the younger girl’s mother.
Stephenson reached out to the older teen's mother, and thanks to her quick thinking, the teens were tracked down after they were spotted panhandling, Yahoo reported. The duo had apparently driven through Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York, although neither of them had a license.
“One of the scariest parts for me was that the social worker who found them a place to stay for the night said they were just south of Washington, D.C., and in that area [human] trafficking is huge,” the older girl’s mother told the Bangor Daily News.
On the ride home, the trio stopped at the Blue Crab Grill, where they thanked Stephenson.
“I said, ‘Do you understand why that was putting a target on you? At your age?’" Stephenson said. "I told them how serious it was, and it seemed to dawn on them the things that could have gone wrong in that scenario.”
Stephenson was motivated to act, in part, because she’s six months pregnant with her first daughter.
“All I could think about was that in the future, if something were to happen with my daughter, I would want someone to get in contact with me to tell me she was all right, that she was alive and OK,” she said.
Stephenson brushed off the praise she’s received for her actions.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” she told Yahoo. “I just feel like a normal person who needed to speak up and did. Hopefully more people will speak up when something seems off.”