Exactly two weeks ago today, I came home. I had originally planned on ending my blog in Milan, but, with everything that has happened since then, I didn’t feel right leaving it all there.
As some of you may already know, there was a blizzard the morning I was supposed to leave. I was freaking out because, as I was told by a number of people, I wanted to go home more than anyone else in the program. I was not about to let some snow stop me. Our flight took off from Milan about an hour later than planned because the plane had to be de-iced, but I wasn’t concerned because I had a three hour layover in London.
We landed in London, and I remember looking out the window thinking, “Perfect. This is perfect.” I had two hours to get off the plane, go through express security (since it was just a quick layover) and get to my gate. No problem, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been a problem if it hadn’t snowed in London. About an inch. Two hours before we even got there. Apparently that much snow threw Heathrow into chaos. There were no stands to let people off the planes, so I sat on the runway for three hours. I sat there, at the airport, as my flight home left without me.
Needless to say, I was pretty hysterical. I was calling and texting my dad, Lauren, and Greg. Everyone was trying to calm me down as I waited in a mile-long line to find a new flight. A snow storm spanned the majority of Europe, and airports were shutting down left and right. I don’t know if anyone actually made their flights that day. Random Swedish people were coming up to me, hugging me, and telling me it was okay. I got a call from my dad saying he tried to find me a new flight over the phone, and the next flight I could take wouldn’t be until two days later. Continue insane freak out. I kept hearing about people getting put up into hotels. Rumors were flying that there was one more flight, one more seat, no more flights to America .. no one knew what was going on, really.
When I finally got to the front of the line, I told the attendant, “I will take any flight to America. I will sit with the luggage if I have to.” She said there were two flights left - one to JFK and one to Boston. I would gladly take either. Boston’s gates closed as I stood there. The flight to JFK was full. The woman - an angel, really - was going to let me attempt standby. I would wait at the gate and see if any seats opened up due to last-minute cancellations or no-shows. Just in case, she booked me on a flight to JFK for the next morning and gave me a voucher for a hotel.
To get me on standby, she called to tell them I was “an emotional case.” She gave me the tickets, and I sprinted through security. The guard told me he hoped I made the flight, “cause it looks like I need it.” I ran to my gate. I knocked into some people, but I honestly did not care. Twenty-four people were attempting standby for this flight, and I wanted to be first in line. When I got to the gate, no one was in line. I asked an attendant what I do if I’m doing standby. He took my ticket, scanned it, and said, “Alright, I’ve got you a seat.” I could have died right then. I started crying, thanking him over and over. He said, “I hope those are tears of happiness.” I told him that they were. I explained that I had been living in Italy for the past four months, and I just wanted to get home. ”Well, Italy can’t be that bad,” he responded.
Our flight took off a couple hours late - more plane de-icing. I honestly don’t even know how late it was. At that point, I was insanely happy. I watched Pocohontas on the plane because I know that Kiwi always does. The moment the captain announced that we landed in New York was probably the happiest moment of my life.
My luggage was lost - no surprise there. I ended up waiting about a week before it was finally sent to me. The problem was that European airports were still essentially shut down because of the snow, so there weren’t any flights my luggage could go on. The back-up flight I had been booked on that night got cancelled. No flights left until the following Tuesday. A few people from my program couldn’t get out of Europe until Christmas Eve or later. If I hadn’t made that standby flight, I may not have been home for Christmas.
When I finally got my luggage, I found that British Airways cracked and jammed the handle of one of my suitcases, rendering it useless. I’m pissed, of course, but I’ve got other things on my mind.
I’m in Cape May right now, with my family, for New Years. I have so many things coming up, I don’t know what I’m most excited for. I’m so grateful for having had the opportunity to study abroad. Looking at the pictures of the places I’ve been is kind of surreal. Not many people get to have the same experience that I got to have.
All that said, I think I’ll stay in America for a while.