I did leave XNA at 11:30. Despite a late boarding, my plane took off in time and I arrived in Memphis where I was to make a connecting flight at 1:30. The plane was set to leave at 2:30 and after eating a bagel from Starbucks and worrying about another late boarding and also tornados that were hitting Missouri, again I boarded the plane. We waited as the stewardess went through the usual instructions about exits and seat belts...I was reading and my seat-mate already fell asleep. The window was closed, so neither of us could tell what was going on outside. After about 20 minutes, she woke up and asked whether we had taken off. I didn't think so and opened the window. We were on the ground and still at the gate (actually, we soon learned, we had moved about 3 gates down from A18 to A15) Another few minutes went by and the captain came over the loudspeakers..."We're sorry folks there is a small mechanical problem with the plane. We're going to let you wait in the terminal while it is fixed." Great. Back off the plane...back into the airport...call my ride to tell them I would be late...read my book a while...talk to the other passengers...buy some candy and a pop...We waited in the terminal for about 3 hours.
Meanwhile, the weather was getting worse. Major storms were headed for both Indy and Memphis. Everyone was worried. Would our flight be canceled? Finally, it looked like there was a clearing between the two storm fronts hitting Indiana. We waited expectantly while the pilot talked to the stewardess. Everyone agreed we would RUN onto that plane and have the fastest boarding time on record, if they would just get us home!
At about 6 O'clock the announcement we were waiting for finally came. Flight 8152 with full service to Indianapolis is boarding...we DID hurry. Allen once told me that for good luck, you are always supposed to touch the outside of the airplane as you board. I've always done it since. I also prayed that we would be safe from the storms and that the plane would take off quickly.
The important half of that prayer was answered yes. After we all rushed onto the plane, the captain again came over the loudspeakers and announced that the runway was closed because of lightening. It would only open 15 minutes after the last lightening strike that was closer than five miles away. Also, the stewardess who came around offering water and pretzels explained that since we were already 3 1/2 hours late, that we were on the bottom of the list to take off. Meanwhile, the Memphis storm worsened.
Historically, I have never been very afraid of storms. My mom has always been cautious and woken us up to move us into the bathroom with pillows and blankets when threats came. But if I was allowed, I preferred to be at the door with my dad. Feeling the wind, watching the lightening and hail, and listening to the thunder. I used to love storms. But Wednesday night was only 3 nights after the Joplin tornado. It had leveled the town and killed a hundred people just 60 miles north of us. Seeing the pictures and videos of a place that I have driven through many times, a place where I actually knew people had scared me.
As mom and I stood in line to give blood on Tuesday, I heard stories of survival and stories of death. These stories ran through my head as the storm hit Memphis while I sat on the plane. I frantically dialed Allen's number wishing for some comfort. My seat mate had an Ipod and we watched the radar. There was no indication of tornados, just wind, rain, lightening, and thunder. However, as the plane started rocking in the storm, I was scared and again silently prayed for safety and comfort.
Finally, at 8 Memphis time, the storms past and we were cleared for take-off. The radar on my seat mates Ipod said that the storms were right over Indiana, but the flight was supposed to take an hour and a half and we hoped they would be past. I talked to Allen and he said it was very stormy and that he would wait at our friend's house who had a basement until I called.
We cheered as the plane finally left the ground, 5 1/2 hours late. However, I soon regretted those cheers. On the first flight from XNA to Memphis that morning, my captain had said that we might hit some turbulence and that it would be no worse than riding in a pick-up down a dirt road. Really, the turbulence on the flight from Memphis to Indy was probably no worse than what that captain had described. But, when you are flying at 10,000 feet, the bumps are a whole lot scarier than when you are on the ground. I prayed during the rough areas and I tried to keep my mind on my book during the calm times. We didn't even have drink/food service. It was that rough.
Thanks to a good pilot and probably a couple of angels, we finally made it safely into Indy at about midnight. Our plane was supposed to have arrived at 5 PM, so it was 7 hours late, but I could only be thankful and exhausted. Allen headed out to get me as soon as I called. He had been watching the radar with our air traffic controller friend and new exactly where the plane was, but he couldn't leave Bloomington any earlier because they had been dealing with weather of their own. A tornado hit the town at 10:30, demolishing a trailer park, knocking over two semi trucks in the Wal-Mart parking lot, taking the roof off of Sams, and snapping several hundred year old trees. Thankfully, no one was killed. We had flown over it.
I was very glad to get home with Allen and to hug my Pepsi Wednesday night. Our apartment had no power when we finally made it at 2:30 in the morning, but I felt safe at home. God watched over and protected me and Allen. We can only pray for others who lost so much this week. Its a reminder not to take life for granted, but also a reminder of our powerful God who controls all the storms of life.
"Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man"
Truck flipped in the parking lot of Wal-Mart a 1/2 mile from our apartment.