Twas Fleeting, part 3

“‘Twas Fleeting” is a look back at December 20th to December 23rd, 2006 in which Denver was hit upside and sideways by one of the worst snow storms in our history here in Colorado. I was stuck in Denver Intl. Airport for the three day event and experienced so many emotions, events and memories that I’ve decided to share them. This is my story. *insert Law and Order Sound Effect Here*

part two here.

The first night in Denver International Airport was nothing short of having a short stint in hell. There is really no other way to describe that first night. Those of you who have been through DIA know the floors and how it’s either hard or carpet and there’s nothing much else around. Sure, there’s chairs every so often and the food court gives you a chance to rest your heels but there’s nothing for long term. And of course that’s by design. Nobody wants to spend more than a few hours in a airport. Unless they’re a glutton for punishment, which apparently there were around 5,000 of us within the walls of the airport that fit that very description. Unwillingly I might add.

The first struggle was finding a way to get comfortable. Unless you’ve actually tried to sleep on the hard surface they call a floor out there at the airport, you don’t know what the unending and extraordinarily maddening process was like. The floor almost seemed to be fighting back at us as we lay on the cold slab of a floor. The other trouble was the temperature.

As we all faded in and out of sleep the floor seemed to think it was the Arctic Circle and you had to layer the floor with coats or whatever you had available. I was lucky enough to have duffel bags as my mod of transportation so I was able to mold the smaller one into a over sized pillow and the larger into a makeshift mattress of Frankenstein proportions. My friend Mark was not so lucky.

The security announcements were also a continuing concern and they finally stopped playing around 10:00pm in the evening. I can only imagine what it was like for families with children to try and make it through the night. You would fall into dreamland only to wake up if someone passed by or there was the crackle from a nearby walkie talkie.

That first night was so fitful I would liken it to a fight with Muhammad Ali.

Waking up on day two was rough. We felt ugly and we probably looked it. I used the restroom facilities as best as I could to clean up. My face was washed and I refreshed on deodorant and body spray in a fading hope I wouldn’t smell like Loch Ness when this was all over. We gained a friend during the night and she was a bubbly talker.

The day was spent walking, talking and browsing the internet as best we could. There wasn’t much to do. I met a guy who had a Flight Simulator program that put you in the place of controlling a remote control plane. He even had a USB remote control that looked exactly like the real thing. I talked to him a little and was excited to take the wheel. Sadly my plane didn’t stay up in the air very much. We shared a good laugh and I let the next guy in line take a run.

What was great about these long days was that we all realized we needed to keep our minds distracted from the cabin fever that lay just below the surface in all of us. People would talk, chat and do what they could to keep themselves stable.

The news was getting darker and darker as the day wore on. News began to spread that the airport wasn’t going to open before Friday or even Saturday. People began to realize there were 5,000 of us waiting to get where we needed to go. There were only so many planes on the tarmac being buried under the relentless snow.

And we were a stones throw from Christmas Eve. Phones began to light up and calls were made. People’s moods were now harder to gauge as their faces took on a long look. I felt my heart strings tug and tie into a knot as people were working the phone bank in tears trying to find a way to their families in time for the holiday. It was hard to watch.

People were reaching out and giving shoulders. That first day I was standing in line at Burger King and had just waited about twenty minutes to get through the long line and as I came out a mother and her kids had just come off a plane and the kids were in tears and testing the mother who was on her own in a airport. They looked at the line and the kids started taking it up a notch.

Without thinking I called her over and gave her some of my food for her and her kids as they waited in line. She was thankful and I just shrugged it off. We all needed to help each other through these times. There were people worse off in the airport right now.

I had talked with a blind woman and her husband (equally blind) as they sat with their guide dogs. They had been told to come in on the morning of the snowstorm and now were trying to make the best of it. I kept on eye on them throughout the first day and into the second when finally someone from the Red Cross was alerted and brought in to help the couple and their four legged guides.

It was heartbreaking to walk around and I soon put myself back in my corner to nap and find something to do.

It was closing in on the end of day two. Myself, Mark and our new friend were not looking forward to sleeping on the floor again. And yet we had no other choice. Hope was fleeting and the news kept getting worse as the hours wore on.

That night I silently prayed for something, anything. It would take a full twelve hours before my prayers were answered. And even then, it wasn’t easy.

part 4 is here.

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