February 1, 2000
Dodging Another One
I broke ALL land/speed records, getting from the bed to the kitchen, when the phone finally rang at 1:10 a.m.
We didn't bother with amenities. "You're home," I said. Statement, not question.
"We're home," Daughter #1 confirmed. Her voice oozed exhaustion.
I exhaled for the first time all night. "Good. Go to bed. I miss you guys already," I told her. This day had lasted an eternity and a half.
"I miss you too," she said, and we exchanged sleepy relieved 'I love you's' and made plans to call each other the next day. And then we hung up.
I stood there in the dark kitchen for a minute or two, holding the phone and looking out the window at the nighttime sky. Far overhead, I could see the lights of a passing jet, twinkling northward.
When some of my quivering tension had drained, finally, I quietly crawled back into bed next to the peacefully-snoring Other 50% of the Population ... and sank into fitful "sleep."
Another bullet: dodged.
But just barely.
Intellectually, I know that airline travel is safer than driving to 7-11 for a quart of milk. I've heard the statistics a bazillion times.
We heard the news about the Alaska Airline crash at dinner last night.
David was paged by an acquaintance, as we were driving across the island. As soon as we got to the restaurant, he went to a phone booth and answered the page. Our plan had been to have a nice, leisurely dinner out, then to take The Daughters to the Oakland Airport in time to make their 9 p.m. flight to Seattle.
He came back to the table with a grim look on his face.
"There's been a big accident at SFO," he said. "Alaska Airlines, en route to Seattle. It sounds like people have been killed."
You've heard the saying "My blood ran cold?" That's precisely what happened to me at that moment. My blood, which had running at a nice lukewarm 99.2° moments earlier, plummeted to minus 99.2° in seconds flat. It was like being given a Slurpee transfusion.
We ordered dinner, but suddenly nobody seemed terribly hungry. The girls and I picked at our food. "Let's eat fast and get out of here," I said. They nodded in wordless agreement.
A few minutes later ... David's pager went off again.
This time it was my ex-husband, paging us from Seattle. Daughter #1 and I went to the phone booth and tried to call him, but there were minor phone card problems and we couldn't get through. I could just imagine him freaking out on the other end. He'd probably heard the news on TV, and was undoubtedly imagining the worst.
"Let's finish dinner as quickly as possible and get home," I urged everyone again.
I wanted to call Seattle
reassure the girls' dad. I also wanted to get online and check the
girls' flight status: if their flight was cancelled or re-routed or
otherwise affected by the accident, the sooner we knew about it the
"Of all the nights for this to happen," Daughter #2 commented quietly. The irony of this happening on her very first airplane trip wasn't lost on her. But otherwise, neither of the girls seemed unduly rattled by the news. I wasn't going to have to give them the ol' "when the horse explodes, you get right back in the saddle and ride again!" speech. Which made it easier for me to quietly tweak out ... knowing that if anyone would have to be comforted (or sedated -- or SLAPPED back to NORMAL), it would be me, and not either one of my daughters.
The Alaska Airlines website, of course, was totally inaccessible by the time we got back to The Castle. So was the 800 number. So was the Oakland Airport phone number, for that matter.
I was fully expecting a mob scene at the airport ... all of the re-routed air traffic from SFO diverted to Oakland, maybe. I had visions of mile-long counter lines and four-hour delays and crowds of hysterical passengers and television news crews all over the place. That's why I was so determined to hustle everybody to the airport as quickly as possible.
But in fact it was just the opposite: I have never seen an airport so weirdly, spookily empty. ("It's just like 'The Langoliers,' " I commented to the girls.) We breezed through the ticket counter without incident ... stopped at a gift shop to pick up some last-minute stuff for Son #Only ... found seats at Gate 8 ... and then sat down to wait.
As it turns out their flight was slightly delayed, by 45 minutes or so. But it wasn't anything like the marathon delay I'd been expecting.
We had an hour and a half to kill.
Daughter #1 settled in next to me with a new magazine. Daughter #2 plunked herself onto the floor in front of us, fixing her broken Walkman and playing with her new plastic "Rave" beads. David lay his head on my shoulder and tried to snooze.
I sat there and pretended to read my book. But it was useless.
The only thing I could think about was ... "What if?"
And, "What are those poor people at SFO going through, right now?"
And, "Thank GOD it isn't my children."
(And, "I wonder if it's too late to book them on Greyhound ... ??? ")
Amazingly, I didn't come unglued when they finally got onto the airplane.