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Airline Troubles - Chicago Sun Times
Posted on Friday 28 September @ 18:58:33
In the Press[Dan Burke emailed this to me from the Chicago Sun Times - reproduced here without permission]

Airline Troubles

America went back to work Monday, and among the business travelers who streamed through O'Hare Airport, Robert Cornuke had one of the longest journeys and most unusual stories.

He was returning from a makeshift city of more than 6,000 passengers and crew that sprang up in Gander, Newfoundland, a Canadian city which normally has a population of 10,000. But at least 39 jets were diverted to--and stranded at--Gander International Airport after the terrorist attack on the United States.Cornuke spent a week trying to get home to Colorado Springs, Colo. For five days, he slept on chairs or the floor at a Salvation Army shelter in a church, or in the home of Gander area residents who felt sorry for the displaced travelers and took them in.

We prayed for America, Cornuke said. The Europeans hugged us and said 'We're sorry, what can we do?' The riders had to remain on the plane at first as Gander grappled with its population explosion. They were on board a total of 26 hours.They ran out of water, Cornuke said. The toilets were full.

They had us write our names on old plastic cups so passengers could re-use theirs because the crew ran out of cups.At one point, the crew broke out an emergency box of granola--no one was sure how old it was--and they ate it with gusto.

When they disembarked, first-class riders were reduced to sleeping on towels and plastic chairs with the rest of the passengers, but they were uncomplaining. His fellow travelers were stoic and orderly, Cornuke said.

I've never seen anything like it in all my years as a [Orange County, Calif.] police officer ... no one was complaining. Gander opened its arms to them. Residents brought blankets and food for the weary travelers, and some even took them into their homes. At night, fellow passenger Julian Dawson, an English singer and Nashville recording artist, sang to the travelers to help pass the time.

News-starved Americans had no U.S. newspapers to follow the developments. A church ran a cable across a parking lot so they could watch TV. Cornuke arrived at O'Hare on Sunday and was heading home to Colorado on Monday.

When the plane finally landed in Chicago, 25 ground crew members broke out flags and waved them so the people on board could see them. It's good to be home, he said.

Lake Forest consultant Peter Meyer was back in action Monday, flying out of O'Hare on business after being stuck in Baltimore as aviation ground to a halt. Meyer, 57, thought he was going to be in Baltimore for a short time and only packed enough for a brief business trip. Once he realized he wasn't going anywhere, he had to find a clothing store for a man with a long inseam - he stands 6 feet 5. But most stores in Baltimore were closed immediately after the tragedy. He later made it to Nordstrom, where he bought new clothes.

On Saturday, he and his son -- who just finished school in Baltimore -- rented a car and drove home. Meyer owns PMI consulting and has interests in the agriculture business. He wanted to come back to work Monday, to send a message. Here is something that one can do if you're not on the front lines, Meyer said. Getting back to business is one thing you can do, to be as unintimidated as possible.

Elizabeth Allard, 30, of Chicago, got stuck in Greensboro, N.C., and drove back home in a rental car that, thankfully, had unlimited mileage. Allard arrived in Greensboro Sept. 10--the day before the attack--and had been scheduled to fly home to Chicago last Thursday.She and her colleagues from Oregon-based Stockamp & Associates Oreg. processed their grief as they drove west across America back home to Chicago. We had an opportunity to debrief about the events, she said. I watched all the flags at half-mast in all the states that we crossed, Allard said.

Dori Schmaedeke, 33, was finally moving again Monday after spending several days waiting for flights and FedEx to resume. She works out of Chicago in pharmaceutical sales for LaRoche-Posay, and spent last Wednesday trying to get a rental car at O'Hare for her manager from Philadelphia so he could get back home. There were no cars to rent. There had to be 1,000 people in the Hertz rent-a-car line Wednesday, she said. He wound up taking Amtrak home the next day. Schmaedeke handles a prescription skin line for dermatologists and plastic surgeons and constantly sends and receives items via FedEx. I love FedEx. ... [Having no access to] FedEx, that was a big thing for me. Business travel has definitely changed, she said. Monday's plans consumed her whole day.Her evening flight was pushed up to 3 p.m., and she arrived at O'Hare several hours ahead of time because she didn't know where she could park.

Amid the hustle of people returning to work there were messages of support, spoken and unspoken, for the United States.The airport played patriotic music, including Yankee Doodle, This Land Is Your Land and three versions of America the Beautiful. Twins Julien and Valentin Girard, 21, were returning home to Switzerland after competing in the world mountain biking championships in Vail, Colo. We're not American but we have a very strong sense of what America means, Julien said. It's a big nationalism. When something happens to one city and one state, everyone is affected.

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