Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Haiti (Miami) Trip Day 1 -- A Wild Beginning

Dear Friends,

Well, my trip to Haiti is off to a wild start! Let's just say it's a good thing I left a day early to get to Miami. This morning, my first flight was delayed 30 minutes out of Akron Canton Airport. Knowing that I only had an hour in between flights as it was, the lady at the counter was kind enough to confirm me on the next flight out of Miami in case I missed my first one. We arrived in Atlanta and I had 30 minutes to make my connection. By the time they got my bag to me (which they'd taken when I boarded the plane), I had closer to 15-20 minutes. I was in concourse C and needed to be in concourse A, so I took off running in hopes of still making the first flight. First sign of bad news: the tram was out of service. Second sign: people backed up at the entrance to concourse A -- no one is moving! I learn that supposedly there was some kind of electrical fire and no one is being allowed into concourse A. I figure I've missed the first flight, I'll wait for #2.

I go upstairs to concourse B to find out what gate my next flight leaves out of -- unfortunately, it is also out of concourse A. So there is nothing to do but wait. At this point, there is a line in concourse B waiting to take the escalator down to concourse A and most people have no clue what is going on. An airport worker says that she has no idea when it will be open again. A man standing next to me asks if I speak Spanish, I tell him I do and he asks me to explain the situation. It turns out he is from Colombia -- but not only that, he's from Manizales -- my husband's hometown! Small world, huh? As I talk to him, I feel like I am talking to my brother-in-law because he has the same accent! Then he starts using some words that are "paisano" -- or from that part of Colombia, and it reminds me of Estith! :) We decide since we have to wait we will have something to eat. He says he is glad to have found someone who could explain what was going on because everyone was so busy that no one would stop to talk to him. He ends up buying me lunch -- which was very kind of him. The terminal opens again and I have to leave in the middle of the meal because I only have about 30-40 minutes before my next flight leaves.

I wait in line at the escalator. Tons of people. i get downstairs -- worse. People are backed up and we are only inching forward. Finally I make it to the escalator up to concourse A -- as we are moving, the escalator comes to a lurching stop. It doesn't stop again -- I carry my extra-large carry on bag up the escalator, just hoping that I don't miss the second flight, because since this is the airport's fault and not the airlines, I'm not really sure how this is going to be handled -- and it seems to affect everybody!! I get to the top of the escalator thinking it will be easy going from there. . WRONG! It is chaos! There is barely room to get off of the escalator. People are crowded around from all sides. Some are trying to go down the escalator next to mine. Others are trying to cross the terminal to the right and left, others are trying to go forward to the baggage claim, and wherever you turn you are sandwiched in like sardines and the people around you are moving in the opposite direction! I have NEVER seen anything like this in an airport before!! Finally, I get into the clear and run towards the nearest gate, realizing I don't know which gate I'm supposed to go out of. I am told my flight, which now leaves in 5 minutes, departs from A18. That is back the opposite way from which I just came -- through a huge bottle-neck of people!! I make another run for it, only to hit the crowd and be at slow goings again. . all of this while trying to keep my bag from hitting, bumping and/or running over people's toes as we are smashed together. We are told by an airport worker that the planes are being held -- but I've been told that before when it wasn't the case, so don't know if their word is trustworthy or if they're just trying to avoid a bunch of angry, disgruntled passengers who might riot at any moment because they can't get where they're headed! The people on the side of the terminal where I'm headed are trying to leave the terminal, but they can't because of the bottleneck! So basically, there is no room for those of us who are trying to get into the terminal! Luckily, my gate is the first one, and I manage to slide along the side until I can get there and am able to board, because indeed they did hold the plane! Phew!

I arrived in Miami at 5:30pm instead of 3:30pm, but I am just glad to be here! It is rainy and overcast, so I haven't missed any sun. . and so much for my plan to hit the pool before tomorrow's trip! :) Again, I feel blessed that I was able to leave a day early, because if my Haiti connection would have been today, I would have missed it for sure. It was wild in that airport -- there was no order, no one really making order and everyone trying to go their own way. I guess I would have thought the Atlanta airport would've been better prepared to handle such a thing, but I was wrong. I know this was minor in comparison, but as I stood there amongst the throngs of people it made me think about what it must have been like when the earthquake hit Haiti. In the aftermath of that, the stakes were much higher than people needing to get to their connecting flight. It was survival, food, medical attention -- and oftentimes, from the reports I've seen on TV -- there were so many people clamoring, trying to get help. I can't imagine how chaotic it must have been.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write while I'm in Haiti, but if I get a chance I will definitely post an update that I've arrived. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. God is good all the time! And tomorrow, the adventure continues!

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