For some reason, that song keeps playing in my head when I think about flying home on Friday.
The morning started off ok. Get up, have coffee, take a shower, pack for the trip home, check out, drive to the beach for one last look at the gulf coast, and start the drive to the airport. Then the weather came. I’ve never seen a sky so black. The rain started about half way through the drive to the airport. It came down so hard it was hard to see, even with the wipers on full speed. There was so much of it, many of the cars on the road pulled over and waited. We didn’t have that luxury, or at least, we didn’t think so at the time.
We got to the airport and then the fun really started. Dropping off the car went really smoothly, as did checking in. But outside, the storm raged on. The rain came down, the lightening struck in bolts, and the thunder roared. The airport was at a stand still. People were coming in, but no one was able to leave. Seems it had been going on that way for hours. Which meant the place was filling up. There wasn’t a seat in the house, and most of the wall space was taken up as well. The only people really happy were the owners of the restaurants and mini marts. They were doing a booming business. For the most part though I think people understood the situation and weren’t unhappy with any of the airline personnel. They could do nothing about what was happening. They were stuck there too.
A couple of times the power went off and the lightening and tornado warnings continued to bar our exit. As the day went on, no planes taking off or landing, we waited to see what would happen. We knew, at a certain point, we wouldn’t make our connection in Dallas, so we changed it to what the gate agent said was the last flight out of Dallas to Portland that day. Finally, with enough time between lightening strikes, the grounds people were let out again, and we boarded our plane. Right after we were loaded however, the lightening struck again, the grounds people were recalled, and we were on the plane, attached to the terminal by the gate they couldn’t move, and no luggage aboard because it couldn’t be loaded. And us… we waited again. Finally, an hour later, after spending the time looking at our watches occasionally, slowly becoming aware we were not going to make the second flight we’d been put on in Dallas, the captain came on and asked everyone to take their seats quickly. Seems we had a five minute window of time to get out onto the tarmac and maybe, just maybe, we could leave Tampa. They moved our plane out, and we got in line. There were a lot of other planes at that point also trying to leave. We called the airline from the plane, found out there was actually one flight to Portland later than we’d been told by the ticket agent, and booked ourselves on it.
While this all was going on, so was the storm. The lightening had lessened a bit, though not much. Before we got on the plane a guy in the terminal had said, “I fly a lot, you don’t have to worry about the lightening, planes have something on them to absorb it.” And there we were, flying off into it. I kept telling myself, in a little mantra… the plane has something to absorb it… the plane has somthing to absorb it. The take off was bumpy, but not as bad as I had imagined. And we never were struck, to my knowledge, by a stray bolt of lightening.
We were in the air, alive… and then something beautiful happened. We got up out of the first layer of the storm, and there it was. The most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen. Below there were huge thunder clouds that were black as night. Above was another layer of clouds. And there we were, in the eye of that storm, looking at a sky so brilliant I couldn’t stop taking pictures and staring at it.
In the midst of it all I forgot to be nervous and scared of flying in the storm. I felt peaceful and calm. It was tremendous.
We made it to Dallas with 20 minutes to spare for that last flight out to Portland. We had to run through the Dallas airport to make our gate and talk to the gate agent to get seats together. Then we were on the plane, flying home, that part of the trip uneventful. And suddenly, tired and happy, we were in Portland and driving home.
The day was long. 12 hours of travel. But what I’ll remember most was how beautiful something that was initially so scary could be. The feeling of being scared one minute and at peace the next. All from a little stormy weather.