"I wanted to fly on the plane," said Bridget, who had never flown before.
So, without telling their parents, the three took a cab to the airport in Jacksonville, where they bought three tickets to Nashville, went through airport security and boarded the plane. When they arrived in Nashville they realized they were still 200 miles from Dollywood so they decided to call home.
"He said, 'For real I'm in Nashville, Tennessee and I'm ready to come home,'" said Heather Nolan, the mother of neighbor Bobby Nolan.
Southwest Airlines and federal officials issued statements trying to explain:
The TSA wrote that "kids under 18 don't need to show an ID" so the children were let through without one.
Southwest said "two of the passengers were over the age of 12 and therefore could travel without a parent." They allowed the 11-year-old to travel because "in this case, he was accompanied by two older companions.
It was no consolation to the surprised parents, who were shocked that their children were able to board the plane alone.
"I never would dream my kids would have gotten on a plane without me or their mom but they did," said James Brown, the father of the two Brown children.
Aviation security experts will examine the incident for possible weaknesses it has revealed in the system.
Southwest Airlines immediately rebooked the children on flights home and refunded all of their airfare.