I wrote about this in my November newsletter, but someone mentioned that I should put it on my blog, so here it is! This one has a couple of additions from the newsletter.
Where were you on November 1 this year? Me, I was in Los Angeles. What a day. I was in town for my “jobby job” to take a training class, when we found out about the shooting at the LA airport. Shocking and disturbing, the whole class monitored the event through-out the day to see what was going on, who was impacted, whether flights were going to happen at all that day, whether roads were open. After the class ended, several people stopped in at the hotel with people they were transporting to the airport because the roads were all closed into the airport and they couldn’t get any closer. It was a strange sense of camaraderie as we all sat in the lobby watching the news on the television while others simultaneously checking for news on Google and the Twitter feeds coming from the airport. One article quoted from an observer stated that the shooter looked like he was “walking to go get a cup of tea.” I was curious to know how one looked when walking to get a cup of tea and whether or not it was different than how one looks when one is walking to go get a cup of coffee…
My flight was delayed, but scheduled to leave, and many of the roads were reportedly back open… so I grabbed a cab to get as close as I could to the airport – the hotel was about 4 miles away. Traffic was horrendous with the outpouring of everyone trying to get flights and everyone trying to pick up people from flights, and the whole day of pent up demand. My cab driver was a trouper and kept trying to find ways to sneak around side streets to get closer to our destination – he was so concerned about extra miles on the meter and asked every step of the way whether it was okay. He was so nice and kept telling me he appreciate my calm demeanor when other passengers would have been screaming at him. For what? I thought – this insanity is not his fault. What would normally have been a $15 cab ride was close to $30 to get me as close as he could before the police limited access. I gladly gave him double with tip. I got out of the cab and into the sea of walkers and the obviously disoriented passengers. A lot of people walked with intention – pods of TSA employees coming in for shifts tramped the remaining mile to the airport as well as stray passengers such as myself with luggage in tow. Other people were obviously lost, standing around in groups with mounds of luggage surrounding them looking confused, frustrated, and tired.
There were Emergency Relief vans along the way, handing out bottled water to those who had nowhere to go and no way to get there. [The process of providing water could have been handled more efficiently, though, as it crowded up the sidewalks so much and no one was creating orderly lines, which caused the people actually trying to get somewhere to walk into the street (one filled with a lot of big buses) in order to get closer to the airport.] One of the roads into the airport was completely closed to all traffic – including police, buses, etc. and I was amazed to look up and see myself walking as part of this massive crowd taking over the entire street – walking doggedly into the airport alone and in groups to try to catch flights or get to work. Surreal…
The TSA people who were doing the security checks were obviously more strained and exhausted than usual. What a day they had – mine was nothing in comparison, I know. One of the TSA employees I talked to told me she had been at the airport the entire day and that her shift normally ended at 6, but they had asked all staff to work overtime because of the difficulties on the new shifts getting into the airport because of road closures and traffic. She said they were going to be there at least until 9:30 that night.
The airline staff was also obviously tired and overworked, dealing all day with anxious and upset customers, flight delays, a constant barrage of emergencies. Despite it all, they were all professional and courteous and did their best to take care of the passengers that they could.
I am very grateful that I got home – yes, quite, late – but I made it home. I knew I had other alternatives if need be – I could pay for a hotel, if available I could have rented a car and driven back home to San Fran, or I could have desperately called my parents and asked them to drive down to LA the hour and a half from their home and come and pick me up. I know many did not have a variety of options open to them and I wish them all the best of luck and hoping they got to their destinations, if not timely, then at least safely.
Overall, despite the tumultuous day and the tragedy that occurred, I am very thankful. I am thankful that I was not at the airport in the morning when the shooting occurred. I am thankful that the airport staff, the airline staff (I was on United), and the TSA employees were so professional and got everyone through the day to the best of their ability. I am thankful that it was a short trip for me and that I only had one bag to carry through the streets of LA. And I am thankful I got home and got to sleep in my own bed Friday night.
The cab driver said I was unlucky because I just happened to be there on that day – but I consider myself very lucky to have been surrounded by professional and courteous people who cared.
On a slightly humorous note, when we landed in SF, the airplane parked at the gate, the SF airport staff could not get the jet bridge to move to the plane. As the captain said, he didn’t know if the malfunction was personal or mechanical, but in the end, we had to move the whole plane to another gate and the whole waiting, moving situation took about another 40 minutes. At that point, I was just glad I was back in my city and I just settled into my seat with my book until we were able to get off the plane.
Well, that is the start of my November. I am always a little sad when Halloween is over – it is one of my favorite times of year. But, my November has started out pretty interesting already.