Our flight was boarding in less than 45 minutes so I went to the ladies' room to check my makeup in case I accidentally ended up on the pilot's lap in the cockpit.
As I entered I passed a little girl and her mother who were on their way out. "Why did that plane crash into the building?" the little girl asked. Thinking it was a story her mom might have read her, I wondered what kinds of children's books were being published these days. Wasn't Little Red Riding Hood and that wolf scary enough? Finding bears in your bed wasn't enough to give you nightmares? Now there were children's stories of planes crashing?
When I came out of the loo there was a crowd gathered around an airport bar, watching TV. As I got closer I saw that one tower of The World Trade Center was partially on fire and what looked like a plane was headed for the other one. Passengers were trying to explain to each other what might be going on but the sad reality was that no one really knew what was going on. A few folks reluctantly looked away, picked up their carry-ons and made for a gate as an announcement called them to their flight.
As people wandered away I elbowed my way closer to the bar to get a better look. I watched the coverage for a while and then I knew I had to leave. There was a pregnant woman next to me, alone and sitting on a bar stool. "Come on," I said quietly, "we need to get out of here." She looked at me but said nothing. Didn't even stand up. We stared at each other for a moment longer and then I took off.
As I ran down the corridors I heard the announcements over the loud speakers. All flights canceled. Go to baggage claim. Retrieve your luggage. Leave the airport immediately. At baggage claim Delta employees had flooded the area; there were three of them to every one of us. There was no panic. No pushing. No shoving.
A Delta employee found my bags and I went outside to wait for a cab. The line was long and I remembered thinking, "What if I can't get out of here?" But the taxis rolled up one after the other and people got in quickly. Silently.
As I drove away from LAX, I heard on the radio that they had just shut it down. No one was allowed to go in or out of the airport. I missed the shutdown by six minutes.
To this day I don't know what my friend's cryptic message meant. She now works at Homeland Security so my chances of finding anything out are even slimmer than before. The only icons in California are the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland. Were they targets? Are they still?
I flew to Florida ten days later. There were six of us on the flight. The crew gave us free alcohol and sleep kits from First Class, which was empty.
A gay guy a few rows back asked if he could move up to my row. I nodded and as he sat down next to me he said, "Girrrrl, if I have to? I'm going to totally kick some ass."