Firsthand Look Inside the Heathrow Crisis

1 decade 2 years 1 month ago Friday, August 11 2006 Aug 11, 2006 Friday, August 11, 2006 3:17:12 PM CDT August 11, 2006 in News
I figured out when I got up there that's because they were trying to figure out why people were getting turned away at the gate, nobody would communicate with them or the guards or anyone. Eventually word got out that you could take nothing but a ticket and a passport on-board. Not a phone. Not an mp3 player. Nothing.

Put everything in my bags to check. Waited in line for several hours for them to open security as they frisked every airport employee. There were never any announcements (except one asking all the gate attendants to go somewhere . . . so they disappeared for about an hour.) The soldiers who were left didn't know what was going on or what the rules were, they would just tell us the UK was on Critical Alert . . . Which apparently is incredibly rare, and was clearly not good. Rumors were swirling that the airport was going to shut down. But eventually, they opened up security.

Went through security. Had to take off shoes, socks, and remove my passport and ticket from my pockets. I was cavity searched. They left my clothes on, but they might as well not have.

Made it in, got on an internet kiosk with my credit card i smuggled in. Got on the BBC website and figured out about the arrests. I don't know if that made me more or less nervous about the whole thing. I was shaking the entire time, I hadn't slept much at all, and it was all quite disconcerting. Sent an email sounding quite a bit more composed than I was to tell family I was safe.

Eventually they called up our flight to go to the gate. It was the only flight of the morning they didn't cancel. As we were being cavity-searched again, we could see the BBC covering "breaking news" at Heathrow. It was really interesting to hear what was happening outside, and why . . . and to hear them misreport a lot of things we had experienced.

After we finally were cleared to board we sat for nearly 3 hours on the airplane, waiting for all the passengers to clear security so they wouldn't have to remove extraneous baggage. Then we had to wait longer, I guess for the Brits to decide they'd let a plane fly. I'm relatively sure our flight was the first one out of the UK that day . . . one of very few.

Made it to Warsaw right after my connecting flight had left. Had to wait 3 hours in the international terminal (which was quite boring / awful.) I tried to call home, but couldn't figure it out.

My flight to Munich went smoothly, by that point it was funny to see the other passengers who looked very flustered and had nothing on them  and know they were coming from London too.

I found a credit card phone in Munich to call home. I finally called my phone to listen to my voice mail, just in case. [Dustin's travel partner who was also in London] left a message, saying her flight was cancelled, and she couldn't get on another one until Tuesday. We had planned to leave Turkey on Thursday. So I flew to Istanbul. It was on Lufthansa. It was a nice flight, really nice German/Turkish couple sitting next to me who I told the story of the day.

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