Currently dispatching from Iraqi Kurdistan

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Denver Displaced

About 100 miles outside of Denver we suddenly made a sharp left turn and landed in Chicago, where I've spent the past two nights. Thankfully, I wasn't one of the travelers who wound up on the airport floor. Lufthansa said they felt badly for us and it was Christmas, so they paid for a hotel room for all 300 of us for one night and arranged for us to pay their (very) reduced rate for the second night. Considering the storm was an "act of God," they were not obliged to help us. Lufthansa was not only professional but also kind, and kept us well-informed about when we would fly. British Airways also kindly put their stranded travelers up in hotels. (Service counts! I'll definitely fly Lufthansa again!)

Being stranded and not knowing when you'll leave a city you don't really want to be in can be depressing. But actually it wasn't that bad. The passengers on our flight really bonded, and there were many very interesting, nice and smart folks who work all over the world. We jokingly called ourselves The Denver Displaced, but several people from our group also commented on how difficult it must be for those who are truly displaced. We were flying in from Frankfurt, which is a privilege in itself that requires travelers hold certain passports, and we were inconvenienced for only two days. Just imagine what it's like to flee your home, family, work -- your life -- without knowing if you can ever return.

All of us wanted to get somewhere, or more importantly to certain people, for Christmas. I've only spent one Christmas away and it was painful: I missed the traditions and my family. I don't think I'll ever do it again. But spending time with The Denver Displaced was a great experience as well. When we resigned ourselves to the fact that Mother Nature would determine our travel date and time, and that we had no control over the situation, we sat back and enjoyed one another. We told stories, talked politics and created a pseudo support system. We took turns calling Lufthansa for the latest updates and let everyone else know what was going on. Some of us stuck together like glue through all of the airport chaos.

It wasn't like being home for Christmas, of course, and we were all eager to leave. We're currently en route to Denver (literally -- I'm writing from the plane again) and will soon say our good-byes. As frustrating, overwhelming and long as this experience has been, I'm a little sad to leave The Denver Displaced. We needed the Christmas spirit to make it easier, and we found it in one another.

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