She was in complete shock when she learned what her daughter had been doing over the last three years. And now that she was aware, she didn’t know how to proceed.
She didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but she also knew she needed to put an end to it.
Briana Hefley Shepard was born in Tusla, Oklahoma. Her parents owned a construction company, Alrac Electric, which was located in the Pearl District.
It was operated by her parents, and it also employed her husband, Brent, as an electrician. Briana spent her mornings in the office helping her parents, and in the evenings, she would teach English as a second language.
When the neighborhood began growing, Briana’s parents decided to expand the warehouse space and the shop. However, they didn’t have room in their building to do so.
So, after nearly three decades, the family decided to move their business to South Victor Avenue, where they were offered much more space. Little did they know how this decision would change their lives.
The building was old, but it had a lot of extra room and wasn’t far from the original location. The new site was right next to the railroad tracks, which offered great views of the passing trains.
Briana’s daughter, who was two years old, loved watching the people on trains. “We get a front-row seat to all of the locomotive action,” Briana said. “My daughter lives for it.”
Every day, little Rio would stand on the windowsill and wave at the people on trains. “It didn’t take long for the conductors to notice her waving to them and for them to return those waves,” Brianna recalls.
“As time progressed, it became their ritual. They’d blow their whistles, she’d run to the window, they’d open their windows, and everyone would wave and smile ear to ear.” Brianna didn’t think much of it until three years later.
One day in September 2017, Brianna heard a knock on her office door. “It was a man in a bright yellow shirt with earplugs hanging down,” she recalls.
“I assumed he was a construction worker coming to talk construction.” But when the stranger began talking, she realized he came for another reason.
Three weeks earlier, her daughter started going to school. This meant that she could no longer watch the passing trains from the office window in the morning.
On the first day without her daughter in the office, Brianna heard the whistles as a train passed by. She wished her daughter was there to see it.
The next day, she made a sign for the train conductors that read: “She started school.” Brianna put it on the window and soon forgot about it. Until that morning.
It turned out that the man was a train conductor. “He was there to ask about the little girl with the blonde hair that waved to the trains,” Brianna recalls.
He and his coworkers had been wondering why the little girl stopped showing up at the office. They had seen the sign, but they weren’t able to read what was written on it.
“He said that her waves had made their days,” Briana recalls. “For three years, they’d shared these moments.”
The mother was so touched by the conductor’s words that she burst into tears.
“They want to do something for her; they miss her. He asked if they could send her something,” she said. Her daughter was about to turn five in just a few weeks. So, she told the man they could send her a gift.
Briana also invited the train conductors to her birthday party. Unfortunately, they couldn’t attend, but they did send her a few birthday presents.
“We enjoyed a small backyard party with a few family and friends and lots of train-themed activities for the afternoon,” Briana said.
Briana was so moved by the interaction with the train conductor that she also shared the story on Facebook. She didn’t expect it to go viral, though.
“It was overwhelming and amazing,” she recalls. “For the first time EVER, I didn’t see any negative comments on a viral post; it was all beautifully positive.” But then something amazing happened.
Briana started receiving invitations from news outlets all over the country. However, she had doubts about bringing her daughter to the interview.
“I only communicated with Good Morning America, but in the end, I didn’t feel right about sharing her story with the world any further in that manner,” she explained.
“Witnessing their unconventional friendship over the past several years has been nothing short of magical,” Briana wrote in her blog.
“To know it impacted them just as much as it impacted us fills me with love and hope.
The visit today and their ongoing kindness to my daughter has reaffirmed my faith in goodness and humanity,” she continued.
“These are moments we’ll always remember.”