Note to the reader: This post will be a few chapters long and broken down into the countries and places we visited. Otherwise you’d never read the whole thing in one sitting.
Chapter 1: Getting there…
Last year around this time, I was preparing to go on the trip of a lifetime. On December 22, 2012 I was going to be boarding a plane to Milan that would then take me to Catania. This is where my brother Luis would pick me up from there airport and our adventures would begin. I still wasn’t quite sure how we were going to make this work. We had a trip of 15 days planned with only one reservation made in Prague (Praha) for New Year’s Eve. The only other purchase made was our Eurail Tickets (and we weren’t even sure how they worked). Our brother Carlos was to meet up with us on the 26th. Carlos and I each had Buddy Pass tickets to go (Thanks to my friend Carolyn and her connections). We’d be leaving from our respective cities (Miami and Orlando) and flying to Newark. There each of us would make our way to Catania. All year I actively prayed it would all work out. And taking a note from Pastor Wayne, I spoke it into existence. I just kept saying I’m going, never if.
On December 22nd my friend Allan took me to the airport for my United Airlines flight to Newark. With my carry-on bag (we’d all decided that would be the easiest thing since we’d be moving around so much), and my brand new jacket from Columbia (Thank you Lynn and Michael) I checked in. I will admit that I did not realize that I was standby. I’d never flown with a buddy pass and this was a first. With no problem at all I was given a ticket. I thought phew, smooth sailing. I arrived in Newark and immediately asked for help locating the train that would take me to NY.
I’d already made plans with my friends Maria and David to meet up with them in New York and visit Ground Zero. I had a very long layover in Newark, and plenty of time before my evening flight to Milan, France. I’d planned to take a train and meet up with them at Ground Zero. I’d been there in 2002 with some friends a year after 9/11. I hadn’t been back since, and wanted to see the memorial that was completed in 2011.
It was so beautiful and sad all at the same time. I remember coming here as a little girl with my mom and dad. These amazing towers were so huge, so powerful. And now generations to come will never understand what it was too loose them. They’ll never know what it was like before 9/11. Where were you? It seems that everyone who has was alive and old enough to know, could tell you were they were. I always think of the Allan Jackson song “Where were you”. I was just waking up to my alarm, headed to Miami Dade College for class. I heard the screaming on the radio and thought it was a commercial to another movie. I don’t know why I did, but I turned on my TV in just that moment when the second plane hit the second tower. I stood there frozen realizing I was watching LIVE news broadcast. I was numb. I headed to school were they informed us they had shut down for security reasons. Now 11 years later I stand reading names and remembering. I will never forget.
After spending some time at the site we decided to go grab lunch at the famous Lombardi’s. I was starving, and the wait seemed forever. But that was clearly a good indication as to how good the food inside was going to be. The line was out the door. We got a small table next to the entrance to the kitchen. I was ok with that because it smelled so good. We ordered a coke and pizza and eagerly awaited its arrival. I don’t know if I was that hungry or it was just that good but it was amazing! I had to eat quickly as the time was quickly approaching that I needed to get back to the airport to catch my next flight.
I said goodbye to Maria and David and got on the train to Newark. When I got to the airport, bag still in hand, I headed through security and to my terminal. I will emphasize again that I had no idea what standby meant until this moment. When I got to the counter I found out I was number 13 in line. Not a good number in my opinion, but I tried not to be superstitious. There was an entire family ahead of me and a couple of singles and doubles all hoping to get on this (from what they told me) almost full flight. My chances were not looking good. I started to pray. I had no idea this could happen. I reached out to my Facebook friends and family and asked for even more prayers. Everyone was eagerly waiting for an update. My dad must have text me every 5 minutes…Anything?
I was one person away from making it on the flight when after seat number 12 was called they closed the flight. I have to admit I just started to cry. I pulled myself together and walked back to the counter. The lady was sweet. I explained I had no idea this could happen and I needed any help she could give me. Especially in getting me on another flight. I figured I have the Eurail. As long as I get to Europe I can get to Luis. And even if it takes 3 days I can still get there by Christmas.
She looked and searched and finally found a flight to Paris that “might” have 11 seats due to a delay from another flight in Chicago. For those of you who know me you know this was a good sign. As soon as she said 11 I knew I’d be getting on that flight. So with my iPad in one hand and my iPhone in the other I set about purchasing a flight from Paris to Milan, and changing my flight from Milan to Catania for a later time. I had both screens open and I waited. I knew that it would be a last minute thing if they announced I was getting on this flight and I wanted to be ready and sure when I hit “Purchase”.
Sure enough with two minutes (and I mean 2 minutes) to spare they called my name to hand me my ticket. I hit purchase and waited for the confirmation screen to appear on my devices. I took a screen shot of both confirmations, grabbed my ticket from the desk and shaking like a leaf boarded the plane to Paris. Two things to note that worked in my favor… the first is be nice. The lady at the counter probably gets yelled at 100+ times a day. But I, with my crocodile tears and patience, got her help. And the second… Carry-on luggage is a blessing. If I had checked a single bag, I would not have been able to change flights and I would not have been on my way to Europe.
To be continued…
Come back and check for Chapter two, “International airports, Enough said…”