Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My Experience in the Brussels Airport 0n March 22, 2016

I wrote this for my nephew but some people thought it would be good to BLOG it. Forgive the mispellings. I wrote this quickly and it may be sloppy but here it is.

Over the past 5 years, whenever I travel, I always have to ask for airport assistance with a wheelchair. My old legs and hips just can't handle the long walks from one terminal to another. I dang near collapsed in one of those walkways in the Dallas airport when I was heading to Boston from NM .In the middle of a long hallway I my body forced me to stop walking and there was not a chair or bench anywhere to be seen. I leaned against the wall and slid right down to the floor in a sitting position. It was almost like passing out. I was very embarrassed but it was not something I could control.  One nice woman was passing by and asked if she could help me. She helped me up and gave me her arm to steady me and helped me walk to the departure lounge.
So that is the reason for the wheelchair explanation.

I left The Gambia on Sunday evening , March 21. The flight was a non- stop to Brussels and landed there around 0500 on the 22nd of March. I had to wait for the wheelchair volunteer and he finally arrived and pushed me down endless halls to a security check area that was closed. I was the only person in the entire hallway and the wheelchair pusher (WCP for short, OK?) told me to wait until the security staff opened the place. It seemed like hours but the gate was finally pushed aside and I went through the checks
In my WC. At that point another WCP brought me to an elevator and told me he was bringing me to the upstairs departure area used by United. The WCP and I felt two 'bumpy shakes' as the elevator ascended and we both commented on it but figured it was just a glitch in the machinery. As the elevator door opened and the WCP wheeled me out we saw a great mass of people running down the hallway and they looked mighty scared. I told the WCP to get me out of the hallway and push me behind a pillar of one departure station so I wouldn't get knocked over and possibly trampled. There were people who had already been sitting in the departure area but they had no idea what was happening. The WCP was on his cell phone and after whispered to me that there had been a bomb explosion and asked me to excuse him for a bit so he could get instructions on what to do from his Supervisor. As soon as he walked away I pulled out my iPad and using cc and bc, sent a quick e-mail to everyone I knew telling them there had been a bomb blast in the airport but that I was safe and not to worry and I hit SEND. I found out later that most all communication networks had been shut down (to prevent the terrorists from contacting each other)! At that moment several staff members began shouting for everyone in the the area to evacuate the building. Since my WCP had not returned yet I just sat back and waited. The WC I was in had no wheels to self propel myself but the WCP finally got back to me and I looked around and realized that the entire floor was empty save for me and a few staff. I was the last one out of the departure area and my shoulder bag sitting in my lap that held my iPad, kindle, cellphone, my personal medications and my address book which contained all my passwords was confiscated by a security person. I told him I needed the bag but he told me I had to evacuate the area without it. Since it was not the time to argue I asked the WC pusher to take me out. And down the elevator we went. When we got outside there were so many people just milling about waiting for someone to tell us what was happening and what we should do. It was very cold and the wind was blowing. Those of us from Africa did not dress for cold weather but some folks began handing out blankets and I was very happy to receive one of them. I guess we stayed outside of the airport buildings for 3-4 hours. and then, because I was using my cane (there were a lot of folks there that needed the WC more than I did) I was put in a bus with other handicapped folks and taken to a hotel used as an emergency center of sorts. We were given a meal and then waited for a couple hours and then put in another bus and taken to another hotel emergency center. Every time we boarded a bus the Belgium motorcycle police surrounded all of the buses and escorted us. It was at the 2nd hotel that the Belgium Red Cross took over fully and gathered info from all of us which they used to coordinate with the various airlines so we might get to our destinations. The Belgium Red Cross were really wonderful to each individual and showed real empathy and concern. There were a couple hundred people in my group but there were hundreds more at other emergency centers around the city. We stayed at the 2nd hotel for a long time and then told us we would be taken to a 3rd hotel where we would rest for the night. ( the name of the hotel was 'SEASONS'). Beneath the hotel was a huge stadium and it was there that we all were assigned cots. There were two cavernous rooms in this stadium. Probably 3-4 football fields long and wide an both of these rooms were filled with those cots . In the morning I felt fine and later that same morning it was announced that United airlines wanted all their passengers to come to a certain staging area. There we were separated into groups by destinations and buses were arranged to take us to Frankfurt, Germany (4 hours away) so we could catch flights to our destinations. When I finally arrived in Albuquerque there was no one to meet me and I had to beg a ride in a shuttle to Santa Fe.  (this is another long story and I am even boring myself)  Please , I beg you, do not share any of the chest pain story with anyone else! I have put it in bold italics so you can delete it after you read it. It was just info for you.   I did get to the Dr. In New Mexico and have been put on some cardiac and bp drugs that have helped a lot. I now feel like I am 60 again.

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