Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Air France Fire

You know how people say: "Where were you when...?" Well, on August 2nd, when the Air France Plane crash-landed in Toronto, I was there. I was getting ready to move my tools and some of my things, to Calgary where I will be doing Carpentry with my buddy Ted, for the next four months.

First let me say in my defense, even though I look fat in this picture, it's not quite so. I hear my friends in Thailand smiling and saying: "four month Stevie...Four month" referring to my state of pregnancy. But the fact is my body is contorted here as I pull 140 pounds of luggage behind me. I thought I was allowed to take two bags weighing up to 70lbs each on the Plane. As it turned out, I could only take 44lbs total. Thanks Vivyan and Dorian for saving my bacon by sending my bag to me by freight.

When I arrived at Pearson International Airport, near Toronto, Ontario, there was an incredible lightening storm. Just after I arrived in the departure lounge I heard an intermittent siren, indicating that the Airport was shut down in a state of code red, meaning that no ground vehicles were allowed on the tarmac. I saw bolts of lightening striking the runway every few seconds for a while. Then there was a driving rain.

Soon after this (around 2pm I think), I saw a crowd forming at the large windows overlooking the runway. I looked out and saw a plume of smoke and a group of emergency vehicles sped down the runway.

My Flight was with 'Sky Service'. The desk agents never said a word to us though. All they said was that the Airport was shut down from the storm. We waited for seven hours for news on whether we would actually be flying that day but all the Sky Service Staff would tell us was that they didn't know anything yet. The truth was that our Plane had been rerouted to another airport hours earlier and our flight had been cancelled all along. Finally at 9pm we were told our flight had been rescheduled for the next day and that we should all go away until 5am the next morning. Passengers started converging on the Flight desk, demanding free accommodation or at least some kind of financial help for their trouble. There were a lot of families with small children and nowhere for them to sleep that night. I actually thought our lounge might turn into a mob scene for a while. Finally, around 10pm, people started to calm down and I left the airport to spend the night with Vivyan and Dorian, nearby in Etobicoke.

As I was waiting for my bus, I met Joseph, who had just got off his shift as a security guard in the Arrivals lounge. He was on duty when the Air France Plane skidded off the runway. He told me he didn't actually see the plane but he saw many of the people who were waiting for friends and relatives from that flight. He told me: "people were freaking out when they saw the smoke. They thought everyone had died." Joseph and I talked about what a miracle it was that all the passengers actually survived such a terrible fire.

Here is what the Air France Plane looked like by the time the fire was put out. I do find it amazing that no one died.

The following day when I arrived at the Airport, there was a voucher for each passenger worth seventy-five dollars towards a future flight. Our flight did leave on time, at 7am, Wednesday morning. This is the view I had of the City Centre of Calgary as I arrived four hours later.

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