Back at the airport, I realized what chaos has been caused and started hearing all other stories. Mostly, about mayhem at other places, where people were running. There was a woman pushed against the wall by the terrified, panicked people. There was a woman who fell down and had blood all over her face. I saw another one with blood all over her knee/calf, and thought to myself that my little scratches – though they started hurting sometime at this point – were nothing compared to that. I heard stories about people going on a door, forcing it to open – and managing to do that and get outside. About woman who screamed so hysterically it made others lose their calm.
And many other like that.
As it turned out, apparently not everyone held on to their possessions as tightly as I did. There were hundreds of abandoned bags and passports by the departing gates, and it took hours to collect them all and return to their owners. Planes were delayed to what seemed like infinity, and nobody knew anything. It seemed impossible to get a straight answer from my airlines of what we were supposed to do. If I actually lived in New York, I would have just gone home right there and postponed my trip to some other time. Or maybe to never. But, as it was, I was alone in a foreign country, with no place to go, and a deep, sinking feeling of homesickness. I couldn’t, just couldn’t stop thinking over and over again “I wanna go home, I wanna go home.” As much as I like travelling alone, and as much as I love USA, I was so sorry I didn’t have anyone with me. And I was actually seriously considering abandoning my green card and never coming back to this crazy country ever again.
But, as luck would have it, after talking to a lot of people, I found myself a “group of orphans.” They were three people – besides me – who were seeking company as much as I was. So, there were four of us, three girls and one guy, and we stuck together since then. I am forever grateful for them and really, really happy I met them during this weird time. Sort of like a silver lining to all of this.
Frankly, I wasn’t thinking about taking photos while this all happaned, but after that, when we were generally trying to get some sleep on the airport floor, I took two:
Our bags, the ones checked in, as it turned out, were abandoned somewhere outside on their way to the planes, between the planes. Therefore, they weren’t sterile anymore, so they had to scan through them again. 16 000 bags. To be checked again. One by one. It didn’t surprise me at all when, once I finally arrived in Oslo, where I had a connecting flight to Poland, it turned out that our bags were left in New York.
I wouldn’t want to go into details, so I’ll just speed it up. At the end, we had to wait for around 30 hours for our flight. They kept on changing the time of departure, so for most of the time we felt imprisoned in the airport. We tried sleeping on the floor, but as for me, I slept for maybe an hour during this first night. Fortunately, we got vouchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but still hours spent on the airport, with the same clothes and not knowing when I’ll see home again, took its toil. The basic feeling I had during that time was tiredness. It wasn’t shock at this point, or depression, I wasn’t terrified or even angry. I only felt exhausted.
At the end, I reached home around 48 hours later than I was supposed to according to my initial plan. My bag arrived a day later, so at least I didn’t have to worry about that.
Of course, after I’ve calmed down, I’m not planning to abandon my green card, but since I never was a fan of New York, it will be easy NOT to come back there ever again. You know, there’s always Boston. Or Chicago. A lot of planes from Europe land just there.
Thank God for that!
Before I move on, there’s one more thing I’d like to tell. Back at the airport, one of the women I talked to said that she knew that the second stampede, the one that happened outside, the one where I hurt my knees, was actually caused by the police. Some people started to go back into the airport, feeling safer I guess, or just wanting to use the restroom. The police, though, didn’t want to have anyone inside, and they started screaming at them “GET OUT!!!! GET OUT!!!!” It added to people’s panic, and they run away, and those outside, not knowing what was going on, run with them.
It really doesn’t take much.
There were some versions circulating of what really happened, but the most probable version – and I think the official one – is that there were cheering and banging from people watching the Olympic games, and one woman thought she heard a gunfire. She said it out loud, and panic broke. That was at Terminal 8. How the hell it reached Terminal 1, where I was, that I don’t know. This seems beyond ridiculous. But when you are in the middle of it, convinced that there really IS a crazy person running around with a gun, there’s just nothing funny about that. Not a single thing.
Now, as I said I am in love with USA. It may be true that it’s more of a fascination, and my love is only for a few areas. For sure it’s true that I can distinguish between North and South, and Florida and California, and see it as different entities. It certainly is true that New York has, for me, always been this weird, unreal entity that just is my comprehension. It’s also definitely true that there are a few things I don’t like about USA in general. But I can understand them, at least to some extent.
But guns. Oh, my. They are the one thing that I not only dislike, but don’t understand. Maybe, just maybe, it’s beyond the comprehension of my “little Polish brain,” but seriously, what is up with that?
We all read it on the news. The shootings. The killings. The panic is there, and it’s real. The event at JFK is a proof of how scared people really are of guns nowadays. And yet, they won’t do anything about that. I had always wanted more strict laws towards guns in USA. However, since I’m not quite a resident yet, it’s not my country, and while living there for a period of a year and a half in total, I never actually encountered this problem; I didn’t feel I had a “right” to speak up about it.
But now I do. If you want to have a gun, you have to be a responsible person. A responsible person will know that all tests and questions that he/she may be asked are for the safety of others. A responsible person would do anything to prove that he/she would be using the owned gun, well… responsibly. I am not saying that I wouldn’t want to possess a gun. I’ve never had any, and I probably never will, but “never say never.” If I did try to possess a gun, though, I would willingly go through every test and background check they would want to do on me.
So there. That’s the one thing I seriously don’t comprehend about USA. And that’s the one thing I even don’t want to understand. Because, one of the things I was thinking back there, was this: “You can be a victim of terrorism pretty much everywhere these days, but guns? That’s only in freaking America!”
(NOTE: Of course, I don’t mean that literally. I only mean that America has a problem with guns – and they need to do something about it, and they need to do it now!)