Airport Despair

December 16, 2008
By Keith Heiner, Mesa, AZ

Oftentimes we take for granted the people in our lives. Friends and acquaintances alike come and go like the ocean’s tides. We never really comprehend how blessed we may be through those people until we find ourselves at the edge of all hope.
“How many people are in your family?” Lindsay asked my older brother as the van drove home down the freeway.

“Eight, plus my brother-in-law Ian,” was his response. Lindsay was my brother Garrett’s friend who accompanied him on the way to and from the Phoenix Airport to pick up Parker, my oldest brother. Garrett explained, pointing as he went, “From oldest to youngest, there’s Hayley, Brittany, Parker, Alex, Chelsea, Me, Keith… where is Keith? OH MY GOSH! WHERE’S KEITH??!”

Alex said, “Oh! He went to the bathroom.”

It was the summer of 2007-shortly after my twelfth birthday. My brother was coming home from Germany. It took awhile to drive to the airport, but when our family arrived, we were very excited. I was finally going to see my oldest brother after not seeing him for two entire years. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t fully explain how eager I was. However, his plane didn’t land for another hour or so.

We had some ice cream while we were waiting, and eventually his plane was called to land. I hadn’t finished my wonderful ice cream, but I didn’t care. I needed to see my brother. We got to the area where he would emerge and waited. The seconds ticked by like minutes. It felt like a lifetime before I finally saw my kind, gentle brother in a nice suit walk through the hall to our family.

I was so excited to see him, but I soon found I was not the only one. As we walked towards the outside of the airport, our family bombarded him with questions, each about Germany: the land, the art, its people, their food, everything. My brother was happy to see our family again and seemed to love answering the questions. It was magnificent, but I should’ve realized it would not last.

We got to the edge of the building and realized Dad needed to get the van from the parking lot. We all waited in that cramped room, each talking about one thing or another. Most of my family was listening to Parker and his fantastic stories of Germany. My mom, however, was talking to my brother’s friend Lindsay about our family and home.

It must have been a good ten minutes or so before I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. I tried to get my mom’s attention, but she was deep within the conversation she was having. So I decided I’d tell my second oldest brother, Alex. When someone was notified of my whereabouts, I walked carelessly to the bathroom. When my business was done, I walked back to the room I was just in.

I arrived, to my surprise, in an empty room. Quickly my mind thought I must have walked into the wrong room. I was embarrassed as I walked back to the bathroom and double checked my path only to walk into the same room.

My mind racing, I walked all over the vicinity searching for the part of the airport that I just could not seem to find. With each step new thoughts arose in my mind. What if they left me? What can I do? Where will I go? What will become of me if they don’t come back?

As I came to the conclusion that they were not here, my first notion was to call them. I realized, however, that I had neither a cell phone nor money to use a payphone. Logically, I thought it best to stay where I was in case they came back and looked for me. So there I waited just outside the airport for my family to free me from my chains of hopelessness.

I decided to pray and held my composure, trying to stay calm, remembering what to do in a dire situation from Boy Scouts. As I was waiting, all sense of time escaped me. I neither knew how long I had been alone nor how many hours had passed before the incident. I kept thinking horrible thoughts of what could happen to me and kept trying to contest them with positive thoughts, but it wasn’t working.

When it seemed all my doubts had won over me, I was saved. My brother, dressed in his black missionary suit and tie, came running up to me. I hugged him, finally crying and thanking God for answering my prayers.

When I had heard what had gone on while my family was riding home in the van, I realized I probably would not have been found, at least not as quickly as I had, if my brother’s friend Lindsay had not come with my family to the airport. I recognized that I could have been left forever if it had not been for her. I’m very grateful for her today and consider myself lucky.

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