Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Maybe the Biggest Small Miracle of All

I spent most of my trip to Virginia in the library researching my master's thesis. By Saturday, not only was I ready to escape the academic cloister, but I was ready to be home.
I arrived at the airport earlier than necessary, turned in my rental car, checked my bag, then ate a late, leisurely lunch.

It was still 90 minutes from my scheduled departure when I got to the gate, happy to know that nine hours from that moment, I would be home.
I was wrong.

I updated my email and saw a notification from Delta that they were rebooking my flight.


I knew there was a severe weather system in the South (I was connecting through Atlanta), but I didn't think much more about it. The gate agent informed me that our departure from Richmond would be delayed about an hour to allow the storm to pass over and not strand our plane in the air. I asked about my connecting flight, and we agreed that since my landing would be delayed, takeoff of my flight to Phoenix would certainly also be delayed. Although most people on my Richmond flight opted for other routes that night, I decided to stay with my original plan, since I was already booked on the final flight to Phoenix that night anyway.

It got later and later, and we finally boarded the plane about an hour later than scheduled. The pilot informed us that he would take a circuitous route to Atlanta, west over West Virginia then south over Nashville before approaching Atlanta from the west instead of the usual north. I relaxed into my completely empty row with Better Homes and Gardens, and I watched Richmond disappear below the clouds.

Ninety minutes into the flight, I asked a flight attendant to compare our arrival time and gate with my departure time and gate. Atlanta's airport is huge, and I knew a few factors had to line up for me to make my flight. We were scheduled to land at 7:55 pm at gate B7, and my outgoing flight was delayed to 8:24 at gate B24, so in theory, I could make it if I hurried.

And then

It was 8 pm and the pilot still hadn't announced descent protocol.

That's when I realized I wouldn't make my flight.

When we touched down at 8:10, I hurriedly checked my Delta app. It said the flight was boarding. I was going to be stuck in Atlanta, and I knew it.
I wanted to be HOME. I was done with traveling and the whole mess, but this was going to be fine. I guess.

I refreshed my app at 8:15 and it still said they were boarding. And we were getting closer to the gate. I said a quick prayer. "Heavenly Father, I want to be home. I want to go to church tomorrow with my family. I want to see my kids and be the mom. If you delay that flight another 20 minutes, I can make it. Please."

Ten seconds later, when I refreshed my Delta app, the screen indicated that the flight was still boarding, but the departure time changed--to 8:36. I had been gifted fifteen minutes. "Ok, God. I'll make fifteen minutes work. Thank you."

I was the first person off the plane, sprinting towards the door, when the gate agent chastised me and warned me I'd set off an alarm if I went through the door before her. "Please hurry! My flight is boarding and leaving in five minutes!" She rolled her eyes and said, "If it's leaving in five, they've already given away your seat." And she continued to saunter up the jetway.

I ignored her, pushing my way through the gaggle of people waiting in the concourse. I ran as fast as I could for as far as I could, repeating over and over under my breath, "Please. Please. Please. Please. Please" until I no longer had breath and had to slow to a brisk walk. People stared and parted to let the crazed lady in the brown hat through. I refreshed the app at my walking pace and it indicated the flight was still boarding.

Was this going to happen? Was I going to make it home tonight?

When the waiting area at B24 came into my view, it was empty. Not a soul but the gate agent.

But the door was still open to the jetway.

I ran the last few yards, plopped panting self in front of her, and asked if the door to the plane was closed yet.

"I already surrendered your seat. You're late."

I begged and begged as I gulped air and the last few breaths of hope.

A few clicks on her computer, a quick scan of my phone

and I was on the plane.

I made it.
I paused at the entrance to the plane, panting and happy. I made it.

I made it onto the plane, but my bag didn't. I didn't even care.

And after all that excitement, I landed in Phoenix only an hour later than scheduled.

Fifteen minutes--the biggest small miracle of all. God is mindful of us. Sometimes it all falls into place and we get the minutes we need to get home.

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