Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta passengers. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta passengers. Mostrar todas las entradas

martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Tragedy and mystery

The flames appeared to be running up the hill at a great speed. From the small town below, the fire seemed to conquer the mountain with ease. The smoke started to descend shortly and only minutes after the incident, the whole valley was choking on thick and toxic smoke. People got out of the streets and got in their homes, sealing every single window and door in order not to let the smoke inside. They kept the blinds up however, as it was important to know if the fire in the mountain continued or if someone attempted to stop it.

 Sure enough, a larger city located close by, had decided to send a fire brigade to extinguish the fire. But they weren’t only there for that: they were also sent on a rescue mission. After all, the fire had not been caused by some glass in the woods (it was nighttime) or a badly taken care of bonfire. The flames had appeared out of the impact of a plane against the side of the mountain. Only a couple of people from the nearby town had seen it actually crash but they wouldn’t have to know how big the aircraft was or why it had crashed.

 The city’s firemen battled against the flames for several hours. The fire that had grown around the wreckage was so violent that it had consumed a good part of the forest in its first hour. As the firemen took their time to kill the fire, dawn came and it was thanks to the first lights of the day that the fire could finally be beaten. They got to the wreckage and discovered it was one of those private jets. It probably carried around twenty people or something like that but it would be irresponsible to say before getting the black box or any additional information.

 The people of the small town were grateful that the fire had been beaten, so they decided to help the firemen with the search for the black box. They divided themselves into teams, each team having a specific area of the forest to go and look for the box. The awful thing was that, as they looked for that, they found some other things that they weren’t prepared to see. Severed heads, burned limbs and even the corpses of a couple of children. It was very shocking for everyone to see that, as their own children were not very far away.

 A farmer that lived by the mountain finally found the box. He was very thankful that the fire didn’t get to his food, so he rushed up the hill when he heard they might need help. He actually found the black box when walking towards the wreckage, closer to his house than to the remains of the plane. It seemed like something important, so he grabbed it and showed it to the chief of the firemen. He was very happy to see the box and thanked the man. It was a very happy moment in a very awkward moment to feel something like that.

 As the box was sent to the city, the firemen and people of the small town had decided to help carry the dead downhill and then to several ambulances that came and went every so often. They all counted the bodies and, when they didn’t find anyone else, they concluded there were actually thirty-seven people in the plane. It was a very strange number; as such a plane was not really suited for that many people. Even the people of the town knew that or at least they thought it was very strange. The last thing they did was waiting for the experts.

 Those people were the ones that were in charge of taking all the pictures for the report that would have to be filed in order to investigate the reasons of the crash. The experts had taken their time arriving because they had to travel from the capital to actually get there, so many of the objects and the general wreckage site was not exactly as it had been before they started looking for the box and picking up the bodies. A young fireman was bright enough to take pictures the moment they had arrived so he surrendered those images to the experts.

After the experts were done picking up all the pieces, big and small, as well as sweeping what remained of the forest to look for every single piece of evidence, the site became some sort of graveyard. It was very particular because there were no remains there but no one really knew if, maybe, some more passengers had been burned by the fire that had consumed the forest. They had no idea if that was possible so the people of the small town organized a mass one-week after the accident. Some of the firemen attended, it was a beautiful ceremony.

 Meanwhile, the experts analyzed every single fragment of the plane and determined that the model that had crashed had seating for twenty-six people. That meant that, according to the amount of bodies people had rescued from the mountain, at least eleven people had not been seating on a proper seat but somewhere else. That was not really the usual and it didn’t happen very often. The experts also tired to determine if the extra passengers could have been a reason for the crash but everything seem to point that it hadn’t been a critical factor.

 The remains of the planes and of the people were thoroughly checked and, two weeks after the crash, the experts released a statement in which they announced that the final number of dead in the crash had been forty-one and not thirty seven as the firemen and townsfolk had counted. Apparently, the remaining four that hadn’t been counted had caught on fire shortly after the crash and now their remains had almost combined with some of the other passenger’s remains.

 It was only thanks to the black box that they could determine who the passengers were and what flight that was. After all, the nearest control tower had declared that no aircraft had been detected in the area before the crash. That meant that they wouldn’t have had any contact with it and it would also have been impossible to know it had crashed. Other airfields were consulted and they all said the same thing. The first theory was that it was some sort of drug related flight, maybe operated by criminals wanting to get away from the country.

 That theory was soon debunked, as the closest border was almost two thousand kilometers always. Besides, the black box was able to tell the experts that the flight happened to be a private one. Furthermore, the codes inside it were able to point the origin of the flight, almost a thousand kilometers away. The aircraft had apparently left an airfield not so far from the capital city. It looked like they had boarded in a rush, in fear if that was possible. The voices of the crew on the recordings were very difficult to tell one from the other.

 It was rather easy to say that the plane was really crowded because a lot more voices could be heard in the background. The audios were checked several time in order to identify what everyone was saying during the flight. It was hard work because many voice chimed into the conversation happening inside the aircraft and it seemed as if they had been talking every single second until their death. Apparently the instruments had begun to fail and that could be the cause behind the crash.

 But even if that was the reason, it didn’t answer much about why all of those people had decided to get into a crowded airplane. As the voice experts analyzed the audios, others decided to have a second look at the object that had been rescued from the plane. There were toys, glasses, a briefcase, magazines, and a couple of computers… Everything except suitcases, actual luggage that the people inside the plane should have carried. It was kind of obvious that they had boarded on a rush. The origin airport was consulted on that and it was then when they had an extra clue.


 The manager of the airfield had a report of a disappeared business jet owned by a pharmaceutical company. It had been there for several months and now the people had left. No one really knew when but the fact that a company owned it raised some eyebrows. But that didn’t explain the amount of people that were inside. It took another week to have one more clue, when a clumsy investigator dropped the suitcase found on the plane, making it open and revealing a series of papers and a very bright substance in a titanium tank, the size of a forearm. The mystery was not done.

sábado, 21 de febrero de 2015

Flights

   The flight had not been awful but my body was just sore from being seated for so many hours. Somehow, those airplane exercises did not do the trick for me. Besides getting in the way of some people, they didn’t accomplish anything. When we finally landed, I felt my legs weakened by the journey. And to think I still had six more hours to go. But at least I had twenty hours to refresh and relax before hopping into another aircraft.

 I went through customs quite fast, and then headed straight for the airport hotel. I had my only bag with me and was certainly happy to be able to sleep in a proper bed for at least a few hours.

 The lady at the counter of the hotel seemed a bit distracted by something and kept looking towards a TV located in a small meeting area besides her post. I asked her if there was something wrong and she said something about a hurricane that was battering some islands in the south. It was feared that the storm could come this way. But, at the moment, her words seemed not all that important to me. As a matter of fact, the moment she gave me my bedroom keys, I had only the bed on my mind.

 The walk from the front desk to my room felt short and, seconds after I closed the door, I had stripped to my underwear and was making my way into the cozy queen sized bed. I fell asleep fast didn’t even remember to put an alarm in case I slept longer than I expected.

 I had a dreamless sleep, very nice and cozy. When I woke up, I saw the sun through the curtain, which could only mean that the day was coming to an end. I grabbed my cellphone and realized I had slept seven hours straight, which was perfect for a guy that had to make another six-hour flight the following morning.

 I stayed in bed a few minutes until I realized I could have a nice hot shower and change my clothes, which I did. I even sang through my entire time in the bathroom. For some reason, a hotel made me feel special, more so when my company was the one that had to pay and not me. After changing clothes to a less constricting combo of shirt and jeans, I decided to head down to the restaurant.

 When I got there, I noticed there was no self-service but one could order anything from one of the waiters, which I did: a big cheeseburger with fries and onion rings. Yeah, I was starving after my sleep. The television screens were still broadcasting images from the storm in the tropics and warned people in the city were I was that they should be mindful of the storm for the next few days.

 When my burger came I ate it so fast, I surprised myself, and the waiter, who kindly asked if I needed something else. I told him to bring me lemonade and to put it all on my tab, as I had no money to pay and even If had had any money I wouldn’t. After a week of hard work, I had earned all the nice treatment.

 There were only a couple more tables occupied and some people on the bar. I looked at those people, the kind that have their first drink of the day at four o’clock. It was nice to be that careless with one’s decisions, although maybe they had interesting jobs or just lives that required that extra kick. As I drank my beverage, I saw them all one by one and realized I knew one of those men: he had worked with me years ago but he had left, probably fired but I did not know for a fact.

 He noticed I was looking at him and stared back and, clearly, he realized who I was. He waved, a whisky glass in one hand, and came walking towards my table, smiling like an idiot. I had just remembered I did not like him very much when he took a seat just besides me.

 He acted all surprised and shocked and happy to see me but somehow I know it was all a lie. I normally knew when people were being deceitful to me and guy just didn’t seem quite honest to me. He smiled a lot and I had always mistrusted that and he had stopped drinking, which was clearly a bad sign.

 The man started talking about his new job, where he traveled a lot and met many famous people. He was something like and insurance guy for the wealthy or something like that. To be honest, I did not pay much attention to anything he said and, from time to time, I would look towards the screens still showing what was happening in another part of the world.

 He obviously noticed me doing do because he started giving me he’s opinion of the matter, as if an opinion was able to change the path of an incoming storm. Yeah, I clearly remember I hated that guy. He was always trying to be visible, attracting everyone to his stupid life and just trying to be funny and just coming out pathetic. He was the kind of person that was desperate for attention and I had never cared for any of that.

 Without any warning, I told him I had some affairs to attend in my room and shook hands with him. As I walked away he told me to email him some time and I nodded but I clearly had no intention to do so. I decided to get around the airport, which was huge, and walk around until my flight became available on the screens all around the place.

 The airport had three terminals and each one was simply huge and well connected, so walking was just a pleasure, looking at people come and go, the pilots and flight attendants and all the colors their uniforms sported. Besides, I had always liked airplanes so my favorite thing to do was buying some candy and then seating by a large window and stare and the planes moving all over the tarmac. It was like watching ants work on giants or something. Maybe that’s what was attractive to me…

 After getting bored and running out of candy, I decided to shop for some souvenirs. They weren’t for me but for my friends and family, all of whom loved to receive t-shirts and fridge magnets after I had traveled around the world. My mother had a collection of those and I had already bought her some in my earlier destination. I found a store that sold several of those, shaped as animals and fruits so I bought a whole bag.

 My sister’s gift was a bit trickier as she loved clothing but I always seemed to forget what size she wore and which colors she was into right now. They changed quite often and it was hard to keep up with it. So I just bought her a black sweater with a funny image on it thinking it went with everything and even if I got the wrong sixe I could tell her I thought she could use at nights or something.

 For my friends I bought boxes and boxes of chocolate and candy. That was what they liked, besides booze, which I couldn’t buy because I had always been scared a bottle would break and then of my underwear would smell of vodka or something. Some of the candy I bought were filled with rum and gin so that would cover me with them.

 I went back to my room, realizing my flight was only three hours away. I got everything I had bought into my suitcase but I couldn’t make the chocolate boxes fit in so I took that on their bad and hoped for security officers not to annoy me about it. I took all my things; check the room twice for things I may have left around and then left the room. In the front desk, the receptionist was busy on the phone, speaking occasionally. She hung up and attended me quickly to go away rather hastily.

 Not thinking twice about it, I walked straight to customs again, then to my gate were I sat down to wait for the boarding procedure. As I checked my emails on my phone, an airline worker dressed in light blue and with jet black hair walked to the counter and spoke on the microphone.

-       Ladies and gentlemen, Air Jet has to announce the cancellation of this flight due to a serious event that has taken place. We will take care of accommodations and will help you get into a later flight to get to your destinations.

 People started to quarrel with her and, not talking to a microphone, visibly tired and fed up by passenger’s attitude, she said:

-       A man committed suicide. He, somehow, got to the building above this gate and  jumped. He landed… he landed on the plane.

 Everyone was now silent and the some of them where walking towards the window. Although far to have a good look, I was sure I had seen correctly. The man that killed himself had been talking to me some hours earlier

jueves, 25 de diciembre de 2014

Airport

So many people, coming and going. So many people busy or pretending to be easy. Some with their families, some alone, some others in large groups were they never really meet. Other are there to work hard, give away tickets, checking people on their flights, tending to their many needs or cleaning the large spaces filled with light and energy.

At the entrance, the men that guard the trolleys to put the bags on, chat about how many tips they have received today. They live on them so every single coin and bill count. And many people prefer to carry their bags inside, not wanting to spend the little money they have on a trolley they have to return to the entrance. They prefer to spend it on one of the restaurants or in some gift to the person they are going to see at their destination.

One of the men hasn't had the best week. He really needs to win some money and tries to attract clients by telling them how easy it is to help them with their bag. He greets foreigners specially, as they are more likely to ask for their services or women alone traveling with a lot of baggage. At home, his wife works doing laundry for neighbors and their daughter works as a secretary. Life is hard and, sometimes, difficult to bare but they are fighters and never give up.

Inside, the many women and men handing tickets are specially busy. They have to be smiling every single minute of their work, trying to provide the best service possible. They are many hundreds of them as all airlines make use of checking counters, wether they have fifty stands or only one. Most of the workers are women, dedicated completely to the old art of traveling.

One of them, Adrienne, is working for he first time. Every time she came to the airport when she was young, it was a whole experience to see the many people working and the planes through the glass of the main corridor. She loved to wonder how many people were traveling and to what exotic destinations they were heading. She never traveled a lot to be honest, her family couldn't afford it. Her first time on a plane was for the school trip on her senior year.

Children like it specially when groups of pilots and flight attendants pass by. Their uniforms are so pretty and most of them look perfect, like real size dolls. They are greatly poised, carrying their wheeled bags, always matching the color of the bag with the uniform. And there are so many colors and shapes of uniforms, pending on the country of origin of the airlines.

Padma, for example, works for Air India and, as expected, her outfit represents her country everywhere she goes. It is a beautiful traditional sari. Its bright orange in color with a red and black scarf around her neck and black shoes complementing it. She is very proud of wearing those colors every single day to work as it represents the rich tradition she loves so much. Being born in Mumbai, she learned through her mother about the gastronomy and many other cultural aspects of her country. After finishing school, she traveled through all of India and then decided to become and air hostess in order to bring India to the world.

But the most interesting part of the airport is were all the passengers and crew members gather: the duty free area. A tiny mall inside the airport, the stores sell every single thing passengers may want to give as a present to their fellow travelers or to someone they are looking forward to meet when they finally get home or to work. The stores are never deserted, filled with the scent of thousands of perfumes, the voices of buyers and sellers and even the taste of many delicacies made for the inevitable need to eat and drink.

In one of the stores, Roger works selling small crafts for people to go home with. There are refrigerator magnets, smalls pieces made of wood or glass or plastic and many sweets and other traditional pastries. Roger likes when people want to taste the pastries in advance, wanting to know what they are bringing back home. It's a pleasure for him to promote the country, its traditions and even the values behind it all. But buyers often go straight to the magnets and that's not bad. He has many, funny and not so funny wants. Delicate and detailed or just simple. He sells them all.

Meanwhile, in one of the many fast food restaurants, works Felicia. She puts fires on the fryer and puts salt on them. She also pours the drinks and sometimes flips the burgers. The ambiance in a fast food kitchen can get very annoying, all hot and sticky and smelly. But its a "safe" job. People work there for as long as they like. No one really gets fired, unless they do something really gross or awful. Felicia likes it and hates it at the same time. She loves the pay, that simple. But she hates to smell like a burger all day long. And she hates it too because there's no way to go out and smoke. There is no out so she really has to wait all day to feed her need for a cigarette.

At the waiting rooms, other hard workers do their thing with people many times not even noticing them. They clean up the place, making it look decent, unspoiled and perfect. They pick up every single piece of paper, every candy wrap, old magazine left behind and many other objects passengers may leave around thinking the airport cleans itself. But it doesn't, an army of men and men work every single second to provide high higiene standards, specially in the bathrooms were people tend to be even more careless than usual.

There, cleaning one of the stalls in one of the many women bathrooms, is Clara. She's a big woman, capable of cleaning a big mirror in seconds with the help of her many work tools: liquids, sponges, rags and mops. She loves it when no one enters the bathroom when she's cleaning. She cannot block people from entering so most of the times it proves to be a difficult thing. But when no one comes near, she feels like singing and even dancing a bit while cleaning the floors. Clara likes it a lot when everything is nice and clean. That is because if she does her job right, she wins more money. And more money is a better life for her and her children. She's not married but has three kids to care for and they are her reason to live. And with her kind smile, she greets passengers when she's finished working.

The other army working at the airport is the one working below and outside. The many people helping bags getting to their planes, the security guards caring for the safety of everyone inside the terminal, the ones with the glowing sticks helping planes to their stands and even those with unique jobs, that no one really knows about.

Henry, for one, is in charge of the birds around the whole area of the airport. Yes, that's his job and he has a companion. A small hawk called Flash. Henry uses Flash in order to scare other birds and animals and make them clear the runways. If one of the those birds gets sucked by a turbine, they may cause a fatal accident and no one wants that to happen. So every single day, from dawn to dusk, Henry and Flash go around the airport on a small four wheeled transport. They have fun together, pulling the danger away from the runways, looking closely at how the planes land, filled with people glad to get home or to a new beginning.

That is the heart of the airport. The planes and the passengers traveling inside. It is them who make an airport what it actually is. And they are some many over the course of a single day. People sitting on a small or very large planes, bound to a city an hour away or another continent very far away. they may get to sleep or just to sit around for the duration of the flight. There are some many going through the airport, running even, as they are making a connection. Those people, although not spending a lot of their time, end to know what the airport experience is all about and that is bringing people together.

We have the example of the García family. Maria and Manuel married three years ago and now they have a new member on the family: her name is Emilia and she's only one year old. It's her first time traveling and its a long flight. She will be visiting her grandparents, uncles and cousins, who haven't yet met her, or maybe only through a webcam. She can't speak yet but she's thrilled by the prospect of a new experience. Although she doesn't know where she is, she knows its something different: the sounds, the smells, even things feel different.
Her parents are excited to. As soon as they sit down, they put on their seatbelts and take each other's hand. They have that custom and they are not letting it go no. They squeeze hands when the plane's door is finally closed and the craft begins to pull away from the airport.

That's how one airport story ends but, as we know, many more are still ongoing and many others are yet to come.