We watched as the sky turned from light blue to dark gray and then to charcoal black as row after row of passengers hurriedly entered the plane in the hope of beating it out of Tampa before the storm hit. Then the skies lit up with streaks of lightening and we heard the crash of thunder just as the pilot announced that we were no longer cleared to pull away from the gate. We sat helpless as our plane was battered with gusts of wind and pelted with rain. People began checking their cell phones to catch the local weather report and check the radar…it didn’t look good. Everyone began looking at their watches and calculating how much time they could afford to delay before there were serious consequences, like missing their overseas connecting flights in Washington, DC.
Half way around the world, there were refugees on the move. They had made their way from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries to Turkey where they were waiting for smugglers to give them the go ahead to inflate their rubber rafts that would hopefully carry them across the Aegean Sea to Greece. They too carried cell phones in plastic bags in order to keep them dry during the crossing. Their greatest hope was to be picked by rescue boats and taken to dry land where they would begin their trek across Europe to a new way of life. Their greatest fear at this stage of their journey was death by drowning. For them, it was worth the risk. These modern day refugees would continue to rely on their cell phones to keep in contact with those who would help them navigate their way to the freedom and a new life.
Our plane was finally cleared to take off after an hour and a half weather delay. There was still a slight chance that we would make our connecting flight to Europe…that is if we could make up some lost time or if our flight from DC to Frankfort would delay their departure for about a half hour or so. During the flight it became obvious that neither of those options was going to work out and that we would be stranded overnight in DC.
On the other side of the world, rubber rafts filled with refugees were being buffeted by rough seas. People were dying while making this dangerous journey. The news carried a picture of a lifeless little boy lying on the beach in Turkey, as the grieving father found his body. He was trying to give his son a better life, but his decision ended in a devastating tragedy.
After standing in line at the overcrowded customer service desk in DC, we finally got hotel vouchers for the Dulles Hilton and plane tickets for a flight to Brussels with a connecting flight to Budapest the following afternoon. It was 1:00 am by the time we reached our hotel room. We were tired, hungry and thirsty…and very disappointed that we weren’t on our way to Eastern Europe. As we curled up in our clean, comfortable bed surrounded by all the amenities one could hope for, we felt weary. It was hard for us to appreciate our situation. We were safe and well, and would get a good night’s sleep and try again to reach Eastern Europe the next day.
When we turned on the TV the next morning, the major news story was the mass migration of refugees trying to make their way from the Middle East to Germany or Austria or one of the Scandinavian Countries. Their journey would take them across Eastern Europe, and that is where our paths would cross.
Tomorrow’s blog: Making Our Way To Budapest.