8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 14, 2006
With cancelled flights and
long lines, the reality of
terrorism hits home
Los Angeles Airport Police officer Michael Manahan guides his d
Baso, to check luggage as travelers wait in line at Los Angeles Inter
tional Airport on Friday.
the michigan daily
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*7 GRAND RAPIDS -
here are roughly
4,000 miles between
Grand Rapids, Mich.
This past Thursday, there
might as well have been '
four billion. I thought I
would never make it home.
Oh, was I ready to be
After studying in Lon- AMBER COLVIN
don for the summer, all
that stood between me and
my mom's home cooking was a train ride and three
HOTO flights: Amsterdam to Washington D.C., D.C. to Chi-
log, cago and Chicago to Grand Rapids.
na- How could I have known I would be flying on one
of the worst days for international travel ever?
While we all gaped at our televisions when the two
towers of the World Trade Center crumbled nearly
five years ago, in Michigan that scene played out more
like a movie.
But this past Thursday, I found myself dumping
bottles of shampoo and a half-drunk Diet Coke in the
trash because of terrorism. It was the day terrorism
became real to me.
r af- No liquids could be carried on the plane. Why was
o my mango-flavored chapstick a threat to my flight? I
didn't know. I could only pick up tidbits from fellow
our Across the United Kingdom, 20 people had been
Au- arrested, maybe more. They reportedly intended to
mok- blow up passenger planes flying to the United States.
pus. Flights out of London's Heathrow and Gatwick Air-
ports were canceled. Customs was going to be hell.
With that information alone, I felt clueless. Soon
my pilot came over the speakers, his timid voice
resonating in the terminal as we waited to board our
"You guys have to be my eyes and ears on this plane
today," he said. "Watch your neighbor a little closer.
Be a little suspicious."
ason Then I felt scared.
allar. He didn't share details of what was going on, just
what we had to do. He was trying to calm us down, but
I could tell by the apprehension in his voice that even he
The woman sitting next to me told her friend that
for the first time since Sept. 11, the security level had
been raised to red. My cheeks flushed that exact color
as I tried not to show the tears welling in my eyes.
I considered calling home and saying my last good-
byes - just in case. But I realized it was barely dawn
back home and that calling would only be playing into
So I gathered up any courage I had and marched
down the tunnel toward my plane.
For the next eight hours I never relaxed, never
blinked for more than a second, never ate, never left
my tiny seat.
I watched the little airplane icon inch forward on
the map in front of me - over the United Kingdom,
over the Atlantic Ocean, over New York and finally to
The wheels of the plane touched down, but I
couldn't exhale just yet. I had survived the most dan-
gerous leg of my journey. Now I had to fight through
the most exhausting segment.
I waited in a suffocating, sweaty line only to get
grilled by an immigration officer. Next came a line to
pick up our suitcases. Then a line to get our luggage
inspected and a line for a personal security check.
I joked to the couple beside me that I'd have to wait
in line to go to bed that night. Inside, I wondered if I
would actually get to bed that night.
We moved like cattle, barefoot and stripped of our
layers. No bulky sweatshirts. All laptops must be
Many of us were bitter about missing our next
flights. But we hoped these hoops we had to jump
through would keep us safe.
After a stifling two hours, I stepped into the actual
airport. My flight to Chicago had long since departed.
Another line (yay!) at the customer service desk got
me a standby ticket for the next flight and back on
As I crumbled in a heap next to a canary-yellow
payphone, I called my mom to tell her everything was
all right. I probably wasn't convincing, as every word
was uttered between sobs.
The worrying, the lines, the rude employees -
everything had absolutely drained me. And I still had
a long way to go.
A delay-filled seven hours later, an incoherent zom-
bie my parents somehow welcomed as their daughter
stumbled through the Grand Rapids airport. More than
24 hours of travel finally brought me home. I felt years
Is terrorism something we simply have to deal with
now? Throughout the day, I remembered how different
things were five years ago, and how I never realized
this is a problem that just won't disappear. It was a
harsh welcome to our new reality.
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WE'RE OFF LIKE
A DRESS ON
BUT DON'T WORRY,
WE'LL BE BACK
IN THE FALL.