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Stuck at JFK

by Teresa Bell

Posted on October 12, 2006 at 1:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:40 PM

I'm writing from the New York Sports Grill inside New York's JFK International Airport. I am surrounded by 22 large screen televisions flashing millions of pixels in a "wall of color" cooperative. On a normal day this would serve as a mere normality of cross country delayed air travel. But today, I sit here watching image after image of New York Yankee pitcher Corey Lidle. The millions of pixels continuously reform to show the same few images; a New York high rise on fire, a video of Lidle flying and the New York skyline. (For more info. on aviation, check out Jack Penning's Travel and Aviation blog below)
I sit here instead of on a Jet Blue airliner bound for Burlington, VT because my outbound PDX flight was delayed by the Lidle crash and it's impact on New York air traffic. I missed my connector. As any typical air traveler, my delay was instantly met with a deep gutteral groan. I've been awake since 1:30a Wednesday. I'm tired. I'm grumpy. I want to get there. I am likely like thousands of other passengers nationwide in that regard. But as the images replay my "problems" are made so clearly insignificant. I ask other air travelers impacted to keep that in mind today.
On local New York television, it is non-stop high rise crash coverage. I watched the morning shows on Jet Blue's seat back televisions. I'm watching their cut-ins of national programming. It's all plane crash all the time. That's the news side of things here in New York. What you're seeing on KGW or CNN is what you see here, but magnified. What you may not see on the small screen is the intent interest from New Yorkers.
I am in an airport surrounded by tourists. I am also, however, surrounded by true New Yorkers. The baggage handlers, the TSA workers, the custodians, the waitresses are all glued to the television screens.
"Oh no here it goes again." That was the initial response of bar manager Ricky Louie. He watched as the breaking news banners flashed across those 22 screens yesterday. He watched as the room stopped. It is life after 911 made crystal clear in New York City. The words plane and building connect like a bolt of lightning.
I expected to arrive here finding a city mourning two lives lost. That's here. That's here in the reaction of those listening to the story of Lidel's wife and son. It's here in the comments of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. What I didn't expect to find was a sample of the city's populous so seemingly relieved.
Louie says once he and his staff heard the crash was not terrorism, a sense of calm came across them. All of a sudden the plane crash became interesting and intriguing instead of frightening.
I interviewed two NYC first responders recently. They felt the city of New York had forgotten. They feared the city had moved on and the community was once again absorbed in self interest. From my limited JFK vantage point, maybe this crash has served as a tremor to this city. A reminder like that from our own volcanic neighbor to the north. Maybe the death of a pinstriped hurler and his instructor will remind those who have forgotten. Maybe it will prepare those vigilant protectors for the seemingly probable. 'Let us never forget' has been said by so many.
Interesting....for the first time since I landed the sun just came out.

From JFK Airport, New York
Scott Burton