Ten minutes later passengers started coming off the stairs. Hanna was still broadcasting live. She had been filling the time interviewing fire chiefs, then a group interview with Ching Lee, Marcy, Vicky and Jenny.
The camera was now on passengers who were very happy when they stepped on the concrete, high-fiving and cheering. The scene was repeated on the ZNN world wide news channel playing on the big screen on the TV in the restaurant.
While the passengers were eating, making calls and wearing out the bathrooms, the girls and I had a meeting in Lorrie’s office. We needed to figure out how to help 200 people for another day or two.
Half an hour later we had at least a partial answer. We just had to ask a few questions after everyone finished eating. But we could not wait long; it was still snowing heavily and accumulating.
We started in the restaurant, “I would like a show of hands of all families so I can get a count.” There were 39, some with 1 child, most with 2, and several with 3. That accounted for 140 of the 202 on flight 709. There were 30 single women, 28 single men and 4 flight crew.
The horsey house had 6 rooms with two twin beds.
The Crash house had three bedrooms with twin beds, a living room and a dining room that could each hold 3 army cots.
The gears in my head were spinning and my pencil making notes.
“OK, here is the reality of the situation. The storm is not going to clear out for another 24 hours at the earliest. Then it will be another day before the major airports are even marginally operational,” I said.
“We have army cots coming, plenty of dry beans and potatoes, cabbage and corn beef on the way so you should be good; Right?” I asked.
A chorus of groans was the reply.
“OK, I take that as you being open to other suggestions. Unfortunately our options are few. But here is what we can do. I know a few of you are going to be disappointed.”
“We have 40 rooms at the Holiday East that we reserved for our employees in this emergency. We are going to assign the 39 families to those rooms; all of them have two beds. If the children can’t share a bed somebody gets to play army and get a cot to sleep on,” I said.
“Now single ladies, I have 12 rooms with two beds each at two different locations.”
“That leaves the rest of the men on cots at our gym. As bad as the gym sounds it has unlimited hot water showers, a cafeteria, internet, and good heat,” I said.
“Can we use the gym equipment?” one of the younger passengers asked.
“Use it to your heart’s content,” I replied.
The next big task was getting the baggage off the plane. The baggage carts were pulled beside the plane and the offloading began. There was an estimated 400 bags to deal with.
The county officials started making appearances for the free publicity, along with a couple more news organizations.
Duke Justice, the county commissioner whose son had tried to kill me, came in and made a beeline straight to me.
“How can the county help? What do you need?” he asked.
“I could use three or four county ride buses to move these people around. I would like to get them where they need to go before dark,” I replied.
“I don’t know if we can find any drivers, but I will try. The plows are doing a better job of keeping the roads open,” Duke said as he was dialing his cell phone.
Things were happening as always with my people, the girls just gave instructions and things happened. Melanie handed me several copies of the list of all the families and with the number of cots if they needed any. These were going to the motel.
One of the aircraft mechanics handed me another note, “All the baggage is laid out inside the hangar closest to the pilot’s office,” it said. The second note he handed me, “Both buses are running outside that hangar warming up.”
I checked off enough families to put 25 people each in the bus. Even though they were 30 passenger buses, space would be needed for baggage. I selected families that did not need cots because they had not arrived yet.
“Melanie, call out these families, take them over to the hangar to collect their baggage and put them on the buses Get with one of the 4×4’s with a plow and lead the buses, make sure this group gets into the rooms OK. When you get back the other buses will be loaded, waiting. Be careful,” I said.
“10-4 Boss,” Melanie replied.
I looked up to see several firemen coming my way, “We brought the four county ride buses and we have 75 army cots along with the linen packages for them in the back of our utility truck. The chief said to do whatever you needed. There is a county snowplow waiting to lead us.”
Ching Lee called out the rest of the family names to get their baggage and load up. There was enough room in the second bus to take all the cots and linens packages. The fourth bus was a 40 passenger, and was going to carry the 28 single guys, the cots and baggage to the gym.
The bus was also going to carry 8 of the ladies who were going to stay in the horsey house. Ching Lee had the other four in her Suburban and was going to get both groups set up for the night. I told her to call before coming back. If things were slowing down she could go to the house; we would all be there soon.
The last 12 ladies were carried back to the Crash house along with breakfast cereals, fresh milk and a snack bag with the promise that we would pick them up in the morning and take them to the airport restaurant.
Everyone who had come in on Atlantic 709, with the exception of the two flight attendants, had a place that was warm, showers, and at least a fair place to sleep. The two flight attendants wanted to sleep in the terminal. The pilot and copilot went to the last room at the motel with the instructions that they were responsible for that group and to be the contact person.
It was 8 PM when I finally got to check all the colleges and then VCATS for embassy issues. All was quiet for a change. The rapid response team had had the day off from training to help with our blizzard. Tomorrow they would probably still be fighting the blizzard.
I walked to the two flight attendants, “Grab your bags, you are coming with us.”
Lorrie, Vicky and I (with me driving) drove Dad’s old truck with the plow and tire chains and headed home. Marcy, Jenny, Ching lee and the two flight attendants followed in the Suburban. I had to plow snow all the way home right up to the garage.
The guests were shown to their rooms upstairs and where everything they needed should be. It had been a strenuous day and I was hoping for a quiet night.
Monday night I slept half the night with Lorrie and then we switched back. Jenny was so restless and moved so much – let alone her sudden giggling when the boys moved – that she woke the girl sleeping with her up. I had long ago learned to listen with one ear and keep on sleeping unless there was a real problem.
Tonight Vicky and I did the same thing around 1AM. I could tell Jenny was having a tough night even though she seemed to be sleeping. She would grunt and tense up. I snuggled close and held her tight.
At 4AM Jenny said very loudly, “Oh ouch, damn” and sat up forcefully; I was wide awake.
“My water just broke and I have been having contractions all night,” Jenny said.
“OK, let me get you some towels to sit on and then I will go wake other girls, and then call the doctor. Here is your watch. Time the contractions,” I told her as I was getting dressed.
First was Lorrie and Vicky, “What’s up?” they both responded.
“Get dressed and go to the kitchen right away, I’m going to wake Marcy and Ching Lee,” I said and headed down the hall.
I shook the two of them awake and told them to go to the kitchen. While I was waiting on them I called Jake, Jason and Dad. All of whom said, “We are on our way.”
I called Dr. Peterson, not expecting an answer, “I’m already at the hospital. They put us in empty patient rooms to keep the hospital staffed. We will be ready for you, call if you have any problems. My partner delivered four during the night.”
Crash and Marlene showed up as the girls did, “Jenny’s water broke and she is having the babies today. I’m going out to dig out the plow then open the driveway so we can carry her in the Suburban. It still is snowing a blizzard out there. Jake, Jason and Dad are on the way. With the three trucks with plows, we should be able to get her to the hospital.”
I had thought about using one of the choppers but with 0 visibility, it was just too risky.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.