This week, even in the face of dual threat hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the nation has paused to recall what happened on 9/11/2001. I was in the living room of our house in Bellevue, carrying suitcases toward the car in anticipation of our annual trek to Ashland, Oregon, when Bill called after me to let me know that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I imagined a Piper Cherokee sitting with it’s nose inside a window, but of course, it wasn’t a little plane, and it wasn’t just one, either.
Bill and I stopped packing right then. We sat down and remained glued to the television set in our family room for hours on end, watching that terrible national tragedy unfold. Much later in the day we decided that if we didn’t make our trip to Ashland to see the plays at the Shakespearian Festival, that would mean that the terrorists had actually won another round.
We finished packing with heavy hearts and drove down, arriving much later than we had originally intended. And of all the years we spent going to the plays in Ashland, that year was an especially low point. The comedies weren’t funny, and the tragedies weren’t nearly tragic enough.
But what this blog is really about isn’t that day, the day when the world changed. It’s about the day before and how I almost WASN’T home in Bellevue when everything went to hell in a hand basket.
Our usual travel pattern was to leave for Ashland on Monday and stay the remainder of the week, departing the following Sunday. That year, however, one of the major national book suppliers, Hudson News, asked me to do a book signing at a convention in Montreal on Monday, September 10.
You may not have realized this at the time. I don’t believe it was ever mentioned in any of the media reports I saw, but the convention in question was one that had airport managers from all over the world in Montreal, leaving their second or third in commands in charge or their various airports. A coincidence perhaps? I don’t think so!
This was 2001. I’m not sure which of my books I was expected to sign at the event. It was either Outlaw Mountain or Breach of Duty, since those would have been in paperback in 2001. Whichever paperback it was, Hudson News had brought along four hundred copies for me to sign and give away. At high noon on September 10, they sat me down at a table, handed me a pen, and started having me sign books. I signed all four hundred copies, and then they threw me in car and off we went to the airport.
I was booked to fly home via Chicago. The problem is, once I got to the airport, I discovered that due to weather on the East Coast, complicated by a kitchen fire at Laguardia Airport, my flight was delayed. For a long time.
Once we finally got underway, our flight landed in Chicago with bare minutes for the three Seattle bound passengers to make their connecting flight. The flight attendants let us disembark firs,t and we set off at a dead run. O’Hare airport is huge under the best of circumstances, and that night it was particularly daunting. We were racing along when a black guy driving one of those handicapped golf cars showed up and asked us where we headed. When we told him, he looked at his watch, shook his head, and said, “You’ll never make it walking. Get in.”
So we did. The three of us piled into his golf cart, and off we went! We zipped down back corridors and through tunnels, dodging through bits of the subterranean airport the public never sees. We arrived at the departure gate after all the other Seattle bound passengers had boarded the plane, but the door was still open. We made it on to the flight, but just barely.
I don’t remember if we tipped the driver or even thanked him. I hope so, because that flight was the very LAST one out of Chicago and into Seattle before the towers came down. Had I been stranded in Chicago when all hell broke loose, no telling how long it would have taken me to get home.
So that’s what this blog is really about—saying thank you to a man whose name I never knew and probably will never know, but for those three travelers, he was indeed a Good Samaritan.
Whenever my mother couldn’t sort out which of her kids’ mostly J-word names was applicable to the current situation, she would sputter, “Jan, Jean, Jud, Jane,” meaning of course Janice, Jeannie, Judy, or Janie. Finally, giving up she would say, “Whoever you are you know who you are.”
And I hope that guy—the one driving the golf cart—somehow sees this and knows how grateful I was to be safely home on that dreadful morning. I’m sure the other couple traveling that night feel the same way.
All I can say is thank you, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.