One week ago today.
I didn't really want to go to Phoenix. It's hot there, it requires an overnight stay, and it's hot there. It's fall, guys, if you hadn't noticed. Sitting in a cabana poolside drenched in sweat holds no appeal. NONE. But turns out, when you've got good friends who you casually tell over your second glass of pinot that yeah, you're SUPPOSED to go for a follow up MRI this month but meh, no symptoms too much work blablabla .... your friends will stare you down with their best "girl no" faces and tell you you're going to that follow up MRI. So, fine, I call and there's a cancellation opening and I book it. Reserved a hotel room and a cheap rental car and an exorbitantly priced direct flight to the state next door. Then travel day came, Thursday. Mabel was up every hour or so the night before with what was obviously just a cold but I blew up in my head to be the makings of that terrible respiratory virus AND IT WAS GOING TO DO HER IN, YOU GUYS. Anderson, in the throes of new-school-kid emotions (OMG THE EMOTIONS!) didn't want anything to do with his mama leaving town. Vivian? She asked if I could take her to Mommo's and leave Wednesday or maybe Tuesday even, thanksalot. I just didn't want to go. I don't like leaving my kids, my husband, my zoo. I was missing the elementary school open house and THAT'S UNFORGIVEABLE. But, more grumbles, I packed my suitcase and got my little people to the places they were to stay in my absence, and I went.
The flight was uneventful. I had a row to myself, I put my feet up and finished off a book I'd been reading snippets of for about six weeks with no time to finish. Diet Coke, deep breaths, hey maybe this won't be so bad!
Then I landed, and got off the plane, and started to navigate my way toward the rental car area. In retrospect, it was suspiciously quiet in the gate area of the nation's 10th busiest airport. I wasn't paying that much attention, though, concerned as I was with getting out, grabbing my rental car and peeling out of the airport before rush hour trapped me on the freeway in an unfamiliar city. So I kept moving, exited the security area, kept my eyes trained above on the signs pointing this way and that, and ran smack dab into a whole mob of people where the escalators should've been.
For a thrilling split second, I thought maybe there was a CELEBRITY. Like one of the Teen Moms or a Housewife or BACHELOR CHRIS THE FARMER (dream big, lady!) But no.
I made my way through the crowd and got close enough to the top of the escalators to see police stationed at each roped off escalator. And then I noticed that the police had guns out. Eh.....? Listen, I'm no expert in Arizona but that didn't seem like normal behavior for a state populated by geriatric retirees and such.
So I stood there in the crowd, trying to stay calm, listening to my fellow passengers chatter around me. People seemed to think there had been some kind of accident down below, outside the baggage claim. Someone got hit by a car, I heard a lady say. And listen, I've got a heart as big as the next girl, but COME ONNNNN. Let me out! Rush hour! I've got big Chickfila and sweatpants and chick flick in my hotel bed plans, guys! Standing in place with nothing better to do, I texted a friend. "Grumble grumble in Phoenix airport something is weird here, grumble."
And the friend responded. And her response made my world start spinning a little faster.
"I don't even think you want me to tell you."
I texted back a few choice words and suggested she JUST TELL ME NOW, and she told me the airport was on lockdown because of a gunman situation.
You just never know how you'll react in such a situation, do you? Will you freeze up, break down, run and scream, coolly hide? Initially, I turned to the girl beside me with whom I'd been sharing concerned looks, and simply showed her my screen with the friend's message displayed. Then, I looked around and realization dawned that probably where I didn't want to be if there were, indeed, a gunman, was right here in the open in a crowd full of people, ANY OF WHOM could be the suspect. Okay maybe not the 97 year old sitting in his wheelchair beside me shouting into his Jitterbug phone. He didn't look the part. But anyone else. So slowly, I turned and walked casually to the farthest corner I could find. JUST KIDDING I TURNED AND RAN, carry-on suitcase bumping along behind me. SMOOTH OPERATOR. I spotted a coffee shop open to the terminal, and an open space in the back of the shop. There, I found a chair in a corner against a brick wall with (SCORE!!!) an electrical outlet to charge my phone. Hiding spot, and insurance that I'd have phone life enough to call my loved ones for a last goodbye? As good as it gets, when you're in a locked down airport with a gunman on the loose.
I don't mean to make light. It was terrifying. I broke down at one point and accepted hugs and a tissue from my new friends who'd joined me in my corner, guys who tried to make jokes but whose true concern was written all over their faces. I texted friends who I knew could be counted on for keeping calm. One friend got ahold of a picture of the suspect, which made me feel LOADS better because before that, I was fixing to use my Durango boots to kick the snot out of anyone who came within five feet of my corner. One friend put her husband on, and her husband pointed out that they thought the guy was in the baggage claim. So I was safe, he said, but the guy was probably trying on all my clothes and using my blush. (Insert big inappropriate guffaw here, drawing stares.) I said to myself, over and over, how staggeringly grateful I was that I didn't have my kids along. How rare that was! I've traveled solo so few times and with the kids in tow so many ..... to this exact airport just four weeks before ..... thank GOD this was a rare solo trip. They would've been so terrified. And impatient. And my fear would've been tenfold with their little lives on the line. Hundredfold.
In the end, after two hours in the corner, it was all okay. Oh, it was madness, when the upper level police released us to the baggage area, where the lower level police were NOT anticipating seeing us and quickly chased us outside. We'd presumed, when we were freed from the lockdown, that this meant the suspect was apprehended. But as we stood, on the curb in 100 degree heat, with no running cabs or busses or rental car shuttles or ANY WAY OF ESCAPING ..... it became clear (judging by the guns and the shouts from the officers outside) that the gunman had not, in fact, been apprehended. At long last busses pulled up and doors opened and there were elbows jabbing and feet stomping as panicked people fought their way on. My elbows are extra pointy, I guess, because I found myself on the second bus as hundreds were left to wait. I had no idea where the bus was going, just that it was away. And away was good enough for me, just then.
They found the guy shortly after my elbows and I rode away on the bus. Nobody at the airport was hurt. It was a mess, a terrible scare, a gross inconvenience (I never did get my rental car). But it ended without incident. I didn't sleep so well the first few nights, and woke screaming to the sound of thunder another, but all in all, I've filed this ones on my "times I cheated death and/or serious injury" list (which is shockingly lengthy, so I DO think maybe I'm part cat with the nine lives and such.) And swore never to travel again. Oh just kidding I'm flying again next month. But I'll go prepared with some calming essential oils and Ambien next time, is what.
Oh and my MRI was perfectly normal, thankyouverymuch.
15 hours ago