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Bob's Story - continued

There's always one looking the wrong way. One thing which sticks in my mind was on the second night around 1am, someone came into our room and laid down on the stretcher/cot next to me. He thought he hadn’t woken me up. Then at around 5am, up he gets and buggers off. Apparently thinking he hadn’t woken anyone up. The next night he comes in again at around 1am and leaves at about 5am. Now you have to remember it’s dark and my eyesight even with my glasses isn’t that good, so I didn’t know who it was. But I did decide that if it happened again I was going to get up and follow this ‘Will-o-the-Wisp’ to find out who he was and where he was going. I mentioned it to Kifah that morning and he’d seen this chap as well. Do you know who it was? Course you don’t. Turns out it’s none other than Elias himself. No wonder he had time to build a web site. He has several hours a day more than most of us.

As with all good things, our enforced stay had to end sometime. After many false alarms we finally got a reasonably sure 24 hour window. So it was decided we’d pack everything away ready. The call eventually came at around midnight local time. We, to quote an American Army bloke, Joey, “hurried up to wait” for the busses. There were many tearful farewells with our new, old friends, at the Sally Army church. The trip back to Gander was at once both, excited and subdued. 30 or so minutes later we were deposited at Gander.

Hard floors don't bother us! Guess what, we had to wait again for around an hour before they called us to the check-in. Once through the check-in, we had to wait again before boarding. This time the wait was a couple of hours. During that 2 hours we proved that we were now conditioned to queue, (line) up. Someone got a couple of pretty stamps on their passport. Within 10 minutes just about the whole plane was waiting at the desk to get the stamps. Then an announcement called for Kifah, me and 4 others to report to the information desk. The 6 six of us were taken to a back room for interrogation. I thought I wasn’t going to make the flight after all. Turned out they wanted to know about a dislodged panel by our seats. As Kifah had actually reported same before the enforced detour, they allowed us to board the plane for O’Hare.
This time the wait was less. As the plane lifted off, there was spontaneous applause from all of us.

During the short hop to O’Hare Monty came on the PA and gave us a few things to think about. Along the lines of: had we noticed that among us were all the people that made our stay bearable. Entertainers, well, Julian actually. Medical people. Several folk like me, who could build a web site to commemorate our stay. People who could interpret for others. Born organizers, Cindy, Monty, Elias to name a few. And perhaps most surprising, the whole mix worked better than any I’ve ever been involved with before.
After that, Julian was prevailed upon to sing, ‘that song’, one more time. I saw a number of folk crying again while he was singing.

Saul & Julian croon I’m a Brit, not to well known for my emotional outbursts, but I was moved by the reception we got when we got back to O’Hare, from the baggage handlers to the clapping people flanking the walkway from the plane. Blimey, thought we’d won a war or something. Then the quickest, quietest trip through customs in O’Hare I’ve ever experienced. Another first. The chap at the customs desk said, “Welcome home”. Then through the doors and there was ……………. no one. Other than an English chap waiting for his wife. I’m sorry, I can’t remember his wife’s name. He asked if I was looking for a short, blond American lady. As I was he told me she was in the loo. Anyway at that moment Cindy appeared, (my Cindy) and we did the welcome home stuff together. I introduced her to Kifah. Cindy and Brenda came through the doors and were introduced. Then we caught the shuttle to the car park.

Outside the airport the first thing I did was to find the nearest steak house that also served wine. I had the best steak I’ve had for years and a couple of glasses of wine. Can’t think why, but I slept most of the 6 hour drive home.

I took 2 days more off work, after all they’d already found out they could manage without me. It certainly helped me be ready to start work again.. I had time to work on the web site, write emails to a few folk, call my daughters and Mother in UK, etc. Now things are pretty much back to normal other than I’m writing dozens more emails a month more than before the trip.

I notice one thing I haven’t mentioned. The cabin crew and flight crew from 929. Wre they good or what? I expect most people respond well in these situations, but our crew were actually called on to be professional, calm, helpful and friendly. They were not found wanting in any way, shape or form. After the people of Gambo, my sincerest thanks go out to those people. True assets their air line. Speaking of which, don’t forget to write to UA and tell them so.

Thanks for listening. Keep in touch.

Bob Smith

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