I didn’t notice the plane turn around. I did, however, notice our clearly evident rapid descent. I quickly did the math. Something wasn’t right. We had only been in the air about an hour and a half. And no, this brown jagged terrain doesn’t look like Austin.
The pilot comes on the PA. Something about an emergency landing in Phoenix. Maybe it was my imagination but there was something in voice, something unsettling disguised as an attempt at comfort.
The flight attendants were hustling, talking in hushed voices between calls to the cockpit.
Something was up.
From here the time increments blend. We continued our descent into the desert brown as the action stirred. At some point I saw a fighter jet outside the window. But I have no idea how long it took us to get down. Or even what time it was.
Sitting front row within earshot of the service area, I sent a few joking comments towards the flight attendant, to test the waters. His response was very different from his earlier playfulness.
“If were going to make this a story, let’s make this a storrry. I’ll take a malfunctioning landing gear with a side of runway skidding” I joked.
My flight companions weren’t amused.
We landed. And we taxi-ed…to a totally segregated area away from all of the other planes. Outside the window? Police. Big trucks. Action.
Then they were all gone, out of sight.
“I bet when we step outside there will be tons of police and fire trucks behind the plane, out of sight from everyone inside.”
I shot out a quick Facebook status before the flight attendant scolded me for having my phone on.
Waiting and more waiting while the flight attendants made repeated calls, back and forth to someone on the other line.
I was about the seventh off the plane, after the 5 or so kids traveling alone. I stepped out onto the movable stairs and looked around.
Surrounded. Dozens of police cars were scattered across the runway and just as many fully armed police officers in varied increments guarded the path to the waiting shuttle buses. Three hundred yards away five aggressively black special forces trucks and about as many fire trucks stood watch.
No phones? Please, this is 2013.
I was caught up in the moment and it wasn’t until I stopped to look at my iPhone screen that I realized my hands were shaking.
Scared? Not really. Adrenaline rush? Hell yeah.
The social word was spread. It quickly became evident that I was one of the only from the plane that was posting. News stories were speculating but no one from the plane was talking. Except me.
Within minutes I was getting approached by all sorts of media outlets asking to use my footage or talk on the phone. An FBI lady came to talk to our bus. We unloaded into an unoccupied terminal. And that’s about the time my battery died.
And that’s about the time the day turned boring.
The adrenaline rush faded as the threat of immediate danger slowly receded. Food and drinks were brought in and we sat around for hours, feeding off the slow trickle of info, waiting for the next bit of news that would get us home.
“Well that was fun.”
Here’s one of the news stories featuring all my pictures and video.