As the plane landed into JFK and I was waiting to exit the plane into the terminal, I had a moment of sadness. Prior to September 2001, there was an amazing ritual in airports that we no longer participate in. The “YOU LANDED AND I LOVE SEEING YOU HERE” welcome that passengers would get as they walked into the terminal from the plane. Whatever the relationship of each person who welcomed or was welcomed after the flight had a moment of true happiness to being together. The plane landed and everyone was safe. It deserved the human connection and it came in hugs, kisses, whispers, etc…
I would take the BART to the Oakland airport, go to the terminals where the arriving planes were coming in and go sit down by the door and wait. As the arrival time got closed, people would start gathering closer to the door to wait for their loved one, friend, long time companion, new loves, old family member, long lost friend, new found partner, son, grandparent… As soon as the door would open up and the people would exit the plane and walk through the tunnel to the door and enter the terminal, they would be greeted with smiles, hugs, kisses, sweet welcomes, whispers, tenderness. Watching this would make me know that no matter how bad things can get, there are moments of true connections at the most random places.
We all exited the plane quietly, got to into the terminal and were all herded outside to wait for our rides at the drop off/pick up curb. No welcomes into the new city, no congratulations for making it safe, no moment of true happiness. It’s a lonely way to start your day after being in the sky.
I hope at some point in the struggles to find a way for safe air travel, we are able to allow to have friends, families, loved ones to come back to the terminal to say “hello, welcome and I’m glad you’re here with me again”.