The metal window shade slammed shut like the guard at the Palace of Oz.. “No planes until morning! You’ll have to find a seat! Hotels are filled with Colorado fire victims!” the voice was stone cold, without pity.
My first reaction was that of a small abandoned child. I scoped my options. All around me the homeless victims of fire walked the airport in quiet search of a vacant group of airport seats to sleep in. Cots were brought out, blankets distributed, and eye contact avoided during this primitive and ancient ceremony of ” bedding down”. I was an open faced Midwest lady and must have exuded safety as my area soon was surrounded by Asians, Mexicans and Indians. A comfortable two rows of vacant seats became symbolic walls between us all. No one looked into the others “room”. “Blanket Mame?” a kind African American man asked softly. “Yes Please”. From the smug safety and security of predictable take off gate arrival time, I was now living luck-of-the-draw. When had I felt this way before? The ghost of the past brought me back to nineteen yrs old and living on the streets, when tuning into the social graces of the homeless seemed incredibly important to fit in and survive, with it’s own social code and politics. I twisted and contorted in my hard little airport seat until morning. A beautiful golden sun flooded through the windows overlooking the landing strips. The smell of coffee, arriving workers and a beeping floor polisher quietly awoke the sleepers, who gathered their belongings, put cots and blankets away, and straggled to the public bathrooms to wash their faces, and take their place in line to wander and walk until bed time again, or go to day jobs. I caught my morning plane, exhilarated. I had not freaked out but maintained calm with a renewed appreciation for the unpredictable. My adrenaline ran rampant for two days. Beneath it was the shock of how life security can be stripped away in seconds, and how the true winners in this world are those that can adapt and maintain calm despite all odds.