Let me indulge in a little break from reviews, even though I am behind in those. But, I need to get something out of my system, and I need to do it now!
Recently, I went to USA to activate my green card (more about that later), and when I was coming back last Sunday, the weirdest and most scary event of my life occurred on JFK airport. You may (or may not) have seen/read it on the news – usually, it was a short note about a false alarm of shooting and evacuation of two Terminals. Sounds harmless enough. Well, not for those that were there.
For me it (sort of) started at the security. I checked my bag in and went to the security line to get “to the other side” when an official said it was closed. I didn’t say anything, mainly because there were some other people next to me, complaining that they would miss their flight. The official screamed at us for a minute, and then went to his manager to check. He came back and let us through.
I didn’t give it another thought, just went to my gate and waited for boarding. My flight was supposed to start boarding at 10 PM, but 10 PM came and went and the gate was closed. I still didn’t think much about it. I mean, planes are delayed on a daily basis, aren’t they? Then, around 10:15 some flight attendants run pass us, in a hurry. I briefly wondered what was with them, but still didn’t think there was anything going on. Until they came back, running, and went right into hiding by the gate 4. Suddenly, though nobody called for it, passengers waiting with me by gate 4, Terminal 1, all in a big panic, run towards the gate with the flight attendants, got down and starting either moaning, or crying. Some of them abandoned their things right there; a girl next to me kept on saying “Mommy, I want my mommy,” and some other started praying. And this awful sound of alarm that I could feel kept on saying “Danger! Danger!”
I had no idea what was going on, but it slowly started to get to me that it was serious – and that it was real. I held on to my belongings, only because they gave me some weird sense of security. I didn’t cry, or scream, or moan, or basically I didn’t make a sound, but in my mind I started going crazy. First, I started thinking how much I truly didn’t want to die. What I wanted to do before, and what I might never have a chance to even try doing. From trying to publish my book, to seeing my parents again. Then, it went into wondering how my family and friends would feel, how they would react if I really died right there. And then, would it hurt? After that, I thought it must be a bomb. And if it was, we were all going to die right there. At this point I started wondering if I was in a right place, should I maybe be farther from the walls, and if that mattered at all, for a good bomb was sure to affect everyone. Before I had time to go into details of what a bomb might do to me, if I survived, people that were at the gate with me, started running again.
Of course, I went with them. All the while wondering if I was doing the right thing. I kept on asking myself if those people knew what they were doing, and if I was correct to just follow them blindly. At the end I concluded I didn’t have a better idea, anyway, so I kept on running with them. We reached a SPA, where a really nice, but really frightened employee let us in and closed the doors behind us. He told us to get to the rear, against the wall, and keep down at all times. I started asking around if anyone at all knew what was going on, but they seemed as baffled as I was. I still kept quiet, and still held on to my belongings as if for dear life. The girls beside me (different ones that before) held their hands and cried quietly; they looked as if they were praying. Maybe they were.
The SPA employee spoke to us. He said he was aware that everybody was scared and that nobody knew what was going on. Then he informed us that he didn’t know, either, but was going to tell us as soon as he did find something out. Then he just kept on telling us to “stay calm” and “keep down.” I remember thinking in my racing thoughts how the hell he’s expecting us to stay fucking calm, but – to my astonishment – I did, and so did the others. I stopped thinking how it was to die and if that would hurt, and instead focused of telling myself that it couldn’t just be the end of it. That I had a lot to do, and – finally – I just started repeating over and over again in my mind “It’s a false alarm, it must be a false alarm.”
I still didn’t cry or scream, only my hands were shaking vividly.
I am not able to say how long we were in this SPA. It might have been 10 minutes, or even an hour. I observed the police coming back and forth on the Terminal. I observed the SPA employee arguing with someone outside, screaming at each other. I observed him lying on the floor, as if he was pretending to be dead, and for one moment thinking what if he really WAS dead. All the time I had this eerie feeling that it just couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be me there waiting with all these people to either die or be told we were safe finally.
At the end of my time in SPA, the police came and shouted to keep our hands up. Everybody obliged willingly, but still they shouted “Hands up! Hands up!” a few more times. Then they talked to the SAP employee, and finally they told us we could go. I didn’t understand where I was supposed to go, but I got up, helped a man next to me to do the same, and followed other people. I stopped to thank the SPA employee and to ask him how he knew we were safe. He said that there was a shooter, but he was now in custody. I hugged him and went away.
And by away, I mean out of the airport altogether. Outside there were what seemed like hundreds of passengers, all equally stunned as me. I sat down on the ground, relieved that it was “just a shooter” and thinking if he could reach me from this distance, if he was still there. I sat there, motionless for another unspecified period of time, and suddenly, without any words, people started running again. I tried to get up, but I tripped and fell to the ground, on my knees. I remember thinking that if I wasn’t going to get shot, I was going to die being trampled to death. But I got up and managed to sort of run away from the airport. I found a little dyke, sat on it behind the bushes, and finally my emotions surfaced. I started rocking back and forth, back and forth, crying quietly.
But I still managed to hold on to my belongings!
Before we were allowed back into the airport, I managed to collect myself enough to ask around if anyone knew what really happened. One person said that she thought she heard a gun fired. Another person said that there was a shooter at Terminal 8, but there were rumors of another shooter at Terminal 1. Somebody else just said there was a woman who thought she saw a guy with a gun. Nobody knew anything for sure, though. So I sat back on my little dyke and observed the police coming. It seemed like every 5 minutes a new car was arriving. If I didn’t look at that, I looked at the empty terminals, and it seemed to me as if they actually evacuated the whole airport.
And all the time that awful sound that meant danger could be heard for what seemed like miles away.
At the end they let us inside the airport again. Somehow, about three hours passed; and only back inside did I see what mayhem it all caused. And that I had it fairly easy, in comparison.
To be continued…