When I walked into the Philadelphia Airport at about 5:15am after being dropped off by Gabby, I saw on the screen that the 2 flights before me heading from Philly to Dallas were canceled. I went to the ticket counter and asked if they knew why those previous flights were canceled and if my 11:20am flight was at risk. They said they didn't know why and that it was possible my flight would be canceled, especially since planes were not coming in that were necessary for the connecting flights. I felt a wave of panic, wondering if I might be now stranded in Philly, but it subsided a little when I received a boarding pass in my hand. The flight wasn't canceled. . . yet.
I had 5 hours to kill and probably should have slept since I was running on a total of about 3 hours of sleep in 2 days, but all I could think about was whether or not I would be boarding that plane. I was now so close to getting home that I could almost taste it. If the flight remained intact, I'd land in Dallas at 2pm, drive to my house by 2:30 (my car was in the airport parking garage), and surprise the kids when they got home from school at 2:50pm. Then I'd have a little time to settle in, change, and get ready for our Halloween Block party starting at 4pm in my yard.
I sat myself down at an airport restaurant where I could plug in my phone and get some breakfast. I ordered food but couldn't eat because my stomach was in knots, waiting to see if my flight would be canceled. I just drank hot tea and checked the computer screens every half hour to see the status of my flight. There were still some lingering dark clouds outside, so I asked people to pray that God would clear up the skies.
At about 10:30am, the sun began to shine, and I had hope that I was really going to be getting on that plane. When they announced we were boarding, I almost cried. I took a picture of the plane and posted it on FB so people could rejoice with me that I was going home!!
I slept the whole way, and when I awoke, we were in Dallas- earlier than expected, at 1:45pm! I felt an incredible amount of relief and thanked God for the safe journey. However, I knew I wouldn't fully rejoice until I actually pulled up into my driveway; this trip had already shown me that every leg of traveling was up for grabs.
Boy, was I right. I got off the plane, walked to baggage claim, and waited, and waited, and waited. After about 30 minutes with no bags appearing on the conveyor belt, a lady walks in and announces, "Sorry ladies and gentlemen, there is a jam on the conveyor belt. We are working on it. Thanks for your patience." I laughed. "Patience" was the operative word this week!
While I waited, I was able to secure communication to my girls through friends that I was really coming home but was running late, I enlisted help in getting some extra Halloween candy since I had forgotten to purchase it, and a friend was going to pick up some Korean food for me to eat so I'd have energy for the party! Things were coming together; I just needed to get home!!
I finally got my luggage and was racing to my car. I was SO ready to rip out of the airport! I tried to unlock the car with my remote, but nothing happened. I pressed it again- no beep. I then manually unlocked the car and got in. I thought it was strange that no lights turned on; what was going on? I tried to start the car- nothing. No engine, no sound, nothing. I froze; this couldn't actually be happening. . . my car won't start? What?? God, really, is there some reason you don't want me to go home??
I called Todd; no answer. I then decided, "You know what? I need to get home. I am leaving my car here and getting in a cab right now." So I posted my dilemma on FB because it was too crazy not to report, and then got in a cab headed out of the airport. About a minute later, I got a message from my friend John who was 3 miles from the airport and said he could jumpstart my car. I couldn't believe it! I immediately told the cab to turn around and take me straight to my car in the parking garage. I paid him for his time, and then waited for John.
He was there within minutes and had everything he needed to get my car started! The only weird thing was that my car would not stop honking. John was trying to figure out how to stop it, but I said I didn't care if it honked all the way home; I was driving it ASAP! He turned the car off and started it again several times, and finally the honking stopped. I thanked him profusely and he made sure I drove out safely to the exit.
It was now about 3:15pm. I was going to make it to the party!! I just prayed nonstop that I would not get into an accident on my way home. . .
I drove into my driveway at 3:45pm, and as soon as I got there, the doors flew open and my girls were ready for hugs! I held them tightly and told them how much I loved them and missed them, and they said the same through tears. They were so excited I was home for the Halloween party, so we got changed quickly and started setting everything up outside. People started to trickle in around 4, and it was a great party with lots of celebrating! Several friends came up and told me that they had been stalking me on Facebook for updates, or that I was the topic of conversation at work, or that they considered themselves weather experts on Superstorm Sandy now, just because I was there. A few admitted that they really were scared that I wasn't coming back, but they didn't want to say anything to me at the time. It was so interesting to hear others' perspectives on my trip and how they handled the stress; I was touched by all their stories and glad to have a happy ending to the madness!
At the end of the night, I practically fell over from exhaustion, but I gave thanks to God for my family, friends, and even Facebook for getting me home, supporting me through the scariest night of my life, and being part of a story that I'll never forget as long as I live! Each kind stranger, every text, phone call, FB note, or private prayer for me during those few days was critical and sustained me, truly. I may never know how many people prayed for my safety, but I can tell you I'm here because of it. This whole blog series has been a way for me to process what happened, but also to thank everyone in my life who cared so much and showered me with love!