September 2002. It was exactly after the world-rocking devastation of 9-11. Nature’s Sunshine Conference was being held in Salt Lake City that year. We had booked our flights months in advance. Then Son #2 got word that he had been accepted to serve a two-year mission for our church. He would need to report to the Missionary Training Center in Utah just two days before our NSP conference in Salt Lake City. That was serendipitous.
The trouble began as we took Son #2 through immigration at the Calgary airport. All the staff members, especially those with the US government, were on edge. There wasn’t a smile to be seen, nor a cheery hello. Granted, they aren’t generally known for that anyway, but it was even worse the day we were travelling.
The immigration agent yelled at us, for what I’m not sure, stamped documents with such force I expected the stamps to break, and then motioned us through. The rest of the trip to Utah was exactly what I expected. Everything went smoothly in spite of our nerves being quite jangled by the immigration people.
The return trip was another matter. Son #2 was now safely ensconced at the MTC. We had had a really great conference. We had specifically booked early flights (8 AM) to come home. We have several September birthdays and we had planned a family birthday party for that evening. Arriving at the airport, we were informed that our flight had been changed and had departed an hour early. We would be put on standby for a flight to Denver and then on standby again to connect to Calgary. Every flight was fully booked. And thus began a day of waiting.
We were put on a flight to Denver at about 11 AM – which was about the time we should have arrived at Calgary on our original itinerary – and boarding the flight was miserable. Because our luggage had been sent ahead (for what reason I cannot even imagine), we were bumped up to the ‘probably terrorist’ list. While everyone else was waved through from the waiting area to the airplane, we had our hands and carry-on handles swabbed for explosives, and we had to remove our shoes to have them checked.
In Denver we had an eight hour layover – waiting on standby again. And the entire process repeated itself down to the swabbing for explosives and removing of the shoes. I was frazzled, in tears, and ready to scream.
When we finally arrived home, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to be among my own people again, in a country where I wasn’t under suspicion.
Since I know we all have hair-raising travel tales of some kind, I’d love to hear yours. Stories like this are the kind that we can usually laugh about a few months later! Let’s have a chuckle together.