Scared to fly

Posted on 11 August 2006

Gill and I are home.

Yesterday morning we arrived by taxi at Heathrow, Terminal 4, with no knowledge that the airport was under terrorist alert.

Hundreds of people with carts of luggage were lined up outside the building, blocking the entrance. A young American woman, who had been at the airport since seven, filled us in: A terrorist plot – on the scale of 9/11 – had been uncovered the night before. Eighteen arrests had been made so far. All domestic and European flights were cancelled. Many to the US had been put on hold. No one was allowed hand baggage.

I panicked about my laptop. Would it survive the voyage in my suitcase? I had also splurged on an especially fine bottle of Armagnac in France (that was thank goodness in a heavy cardboard box.) Would it survive or explode and possibly wreck my laptop? I carefully planted both in my case, cushioned by clothing, and prayed, wondering if I was a fool not to have disposed of the alcohol. (They both made it.)

When our flight number was called, we were allowed into the terminal, given a small plastic bag for our wallets, passports, and tickets. Gill was not even allowed her lip gloss. We lined up for our boarding passes, watched our valuables being thrown on a conveyor belt and then went through security where everyone – including a woman in a wheelchair – had their body patted down.

Gill and I walked around the Duty Free area stunned with no appetite for food – though we had intended to eat before our flight – nor any for the hundreds of gift items permissable on the plane (no fluids or creams were allowed.)

Though I was relieved that our destination was not the US, I felt an ounce of fear that Canada might be considered too close a neighbour and also be a target.

Everyone was subdued. There was no noisy conversation, laughter or bickering. No one appeared angry – though all had lost the priviledge of safe keeping delicate items. Even the overhead monitors that were not updated to show late departure, received little more than a comment or two. I have never seen such a large group of people so patient.

I stood for a while looking out the large window, watching the planes line up, speed down the runway, and take off into the air, half expecting an explosion.

Finally two and a half hours late, our plane took off. I breathed a little easier when it levelled and the seat belt sign went out. I held Gill’s hand through two patches of turbulence. A nervous flyer at the best of the times, I wondered if this flight would be the killer.

I cannot describe my relief when the plane touched down in Vancouver.

So we are home, blissfully home for a little while.

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