Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11, five years on...

We immigrated from London 5 years ago today.
September the 11th, 2001

Half way through our journey we changed flights at Miami airport. Walking from one gate to the next (to board the plane to Belize), I said to Andy "Wow, this whole immigration thing has been so easy". That must have jinxed it, because the next moment the gates closed. No one gave us any information, only that the gates were closed and the flights canceled. We had no idea that at that very moment planes were flying into the World Trade Center.

Andy sat down to read a magazine. He was very relaxed about it all, but I knew something was quite seriously wrong, as slowly but surely Miami airport was turning into a ghost town. I mean, there were still a lot of stranded travelers, but all the shops were closing down and the stewardesses disappeared from the counters. I walked over to the American Airlines ticket desk (there was still one lady there) to get some information, but she wouldn't give us any. All she said was "Watch CNN".

The whole situation was getting more bizarre by the minute. I started to hear people whisper "America is under attack" and "They've bombed the Pentagon". As I told Andy what I had heard, he didn't blink. He simply did not believe that there was anything to worry about.

"I'm sure that's not true. They'll open the gates again in a minute. Let's just wait here"

"Babe, look around you. The whole airport has been closed down. There are no personnel left. Why do you think that is?"

"I don't know. But I think we should just wait"

After a lot of nagging, I finally managed to get Andy to move (he can be so bloody British sometimes. They are always politely waiting for their turn. They can queue up/stand in line like no other)

In the meantime, the airlines had send back all luggage that had been checked in that day. Heaps of bags came out at once. It was pandemonium. People had started to panic by now and were scrambling to get their bags, dying to get out of the airport. We all assumed that if America was really under attack, the airports surely weren't safe places to be, right?

As Andy tried to relocate our belongings, I attempted to get us booked into a hotel. But they were all fully booked. I looked outside and noticed that there also were no taxis left, no hotel shuttles, no cars at all for that matter. It was all getting rather scary.

I eventually managed to get us booked into the Howard Johnson. It was a crappy hotel, but at least they send a shuttle to pick us up. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when we finally pulled away from the airport. We had been amongst the last people there.

So there we were, in the Howard Johnson for about a week, watching the images of the towers going down over and over again. It was all we could do. Like most people, we were in a daze.

And every day we'd go back to Miami airport (hell on earth, as far as I'm concerned) to try and board a flight to Belize. After one week and countless frustrating hours of standing in line, we eventually managed to get away. Not to Belize, but to Cancun. That was the nearest we could get.

Another day later we finally arrived in Belize (planes, train and automobiles, I’m telling you)We fell to the floor and kissed the ground. We had made it to our new home.