Monday, June 21, 2010

And an Adventure it was...

To start with...this post will never capture how terrified and scared my mom, grandma, and I were last Thursday afternoon. I cannot even put into words the absurdity of the situation, and even though it's a pretty remarkable story to tell...I probably could have done without it.

Last Thursday, my mom, gma, and I headed out on our trip to Edinburg, North Dakota to bury my grandfather's ashes in the dark North Dakota soil where growing up he picked and hauled potatoes and every other thing you could imagine to earn money. Before he passed, he would always tell stories of fond memories he had growing up in Edinburg and how we would still like to go back and haul potatoes. It seemed fitting to take him home.

So us three ladies boarded a plane to Minneapolis out of Seattle followed by a connection to Grand Forks, ND. The first plane ride was unmemorable and I can tell you all about running from one end of the airport to the next with only 20 minutes to connect and switching gates, and not having time to eat or pee, but that is boring, and besides the point.

We finally get on our little 50 seater to Grand Forks, and take off. The ride is only 44 minutes, and it is going pretty smooth. But then, the plane makes a sweeping turn 30 minutes in and the captain comes on and says, "Bad news everyone. We have an engine indicator light on and it's not causing a problem right now, but they don't want to land a plane where they cannot service it, so we're heading back to Minneapolis." Basically I heard "engine problem" and started to panic. Then he told us the temperature was going up in the engine, but we should be fine...blah blah blah...then he got on and said he had power again so we're fine. AGAIN? Does that mean we didn't at one point? Finally we were back in Minneapolis and headed to another broken plane with the same passengers and crew. This time it was the bathroom, but I didn't care as long as all the necessities worked: engine, wings, landing gear, pilots, etc.

So literally after 30 minutes from landing we were back in the sky headed to Grand Forks again...phew...BUT then the captain comes on and says drinks are on him and we better have one because there are thunderstorms ahead. Sidenote: Most of you don't know, but maybe you do, that I'm not the best flier. Yes, I will board the plane and can probably maintain a conversation, but it is not my favorite thing to do, and if the plane so much as sneezes, I freak out. Needless to say, my gin and tonic was gone in 2 seconds.

So here we are 30 minutes into our 2nd flight to Grand Forks and the plane starts to freak out... and I mean FREAK out. Up, down, side to side, and not like "oh Angela were there a few bumps you sissy?" like the plane was out of control and everyone was wondering if it was going to tip over freak out. Mom and I are holding hands, grandma can't even look at us, and the plane is silent. But it doesn't end here...oh no.

Finally we are out of the storm and the sky looks better out of gma's window then mine, BUT then the captain comes back on (mom poignantly said later on our way back to Seattle that everyone time she heard the crackle of the pilot's mike her heart dropped) and says, "just to make this trip even more interesting, we are going to circle for a while, because they just cleared the flight tower because of a tornado." WHAT???? A TORNADO???? "But don't worry we have plenty of gas." Oh good, because I need one more thing to think about.


"We have an update everyone, there is a plane in front of us and they are going to attempt to land. If they make it down okay, we should be on the ground in 11 minutes."

1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, no descending, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, not one flipping foot lower in altitude....9 minutes...

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to stay up here a little longer, the plane in front of us was 1 mile from the runway and a tornado touched down on the field. They cleared the flight tower again."

Panic, disbelief, uncertainty....waiting.


"All right everyone, the storm is coming in on both sides of us. We have a pocket to land, so we're going to attempt to land." ATTEMPT? By this time, I could have parachuted out of the plane I wanted out so bad. I told my mom I would rather ride a donkey back to North Dakota then fly there again.

Thankfully the two best pilots in the whole world put us safely on the ground. I could have kissed them both. My gma's cousin Lana was at the airport waiting to pick us up and she told us for over an hour the tornado sirens blared and they were all stuck in the basement of the airport just in case this tornado hit:

Yes, this picture is courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald, and was one of the few that touched down at the airport that day. The plane in front of us landed in Fargo, and we were apparently one minute from heading there ourselves. Thankfully we didn't, because I probably would have boarded a train back to Seattle, rather then get on another plane.

We then waited in the airport to ride this out:

The rest of the trip was less adventurous, thankfully, besides the next day when you could barely step outside without getting blown down the street. But on Saturday we got grandpa all settled at home and that day the sun shone so bright, with the most beautiful sunset, almost as a thank you. We know he is now finally at peace, and so are we.

The two flights back were filled with high anxiety for the unexpected, but thankfully again they were normal. We did experience some turbulence over Montana, which I am guessing is from the tornados they also experienced yesterday. I know that we were very fortunate, because the tornados caused a lot of damage to areas of North Dakota and Minnesota, with lives lost. However, if I never fly during extreme weather again, I would not cry.

Right now, I am happy to keep my two feet on the least for a little while...and so are these two ladies:

Look how happy everyone is on board the plane back to Seattle. After this trip, everyone was ready to come home.