We’ve always been the super early birds whenever we’ve flown. We had just spent the Christmas week with family in the south suburbs outside of Chicago and it was time to head home. I was 3 months pregnant with Laina and we had Cece, 1 1/2 year at the time, walk with daddy through the security checkpoint. Midway Airport was busy with everyone going home the day after Christmas. By the time we made it through everything and to our terminal, it was 11a.m. Our flight wasn’t due to arrive at Dallas Love Field until about 6:30 that evening. Yup, we were definitely early birds.
We prepared ourselves with coloring books, plenty of snacks and the good company of each other. We found a seat with a plug and set our phones down for a good recharge. As David plugged in my phone, we glanced up to see the TV monitor announcing that the weather was to be heavy at home this evening. It just made us even more anxious to get home.
David spent most of the time taking Cece around the airport. But, it seemed that she was taking him around the airport more than vice versa. I remember snapping the picture of him trying to rest along the moving walkway and giggling as Cece tried to take him to the other side of the terminal. Once she wore herself out with long walks and coloring, we settled in to a permanent spot near our terminal.
I remember showing our oldest the planes taking off. I even remember David showed me the picture he snapped and I remember how innocent our precious girl looked. I even remember how she said thank you to the attendant as we did family boarding and sat her down on my lap. We sat in the very last row of the plane just in case Cece was going to fuss. The lady next to my husband in the aisle seat was in love with our daughter. She continued to tell us the stories of her own grandchildren and it was almost like you could see them in her eyes as she would talk so lovingly of them.
The flight attendants couldn’t get over how polite and great our daughter was doing. We had everything planned out and easy peasy. Then, the pilot came on the intercom. We were being diverted to Houston. We knew the weather was going to be bad, but it had apparently become even worse than expected. We landed at Houston and Dave immediately pulled up the radar. I saw panic strike David’s face. “Hun, it’s right over our house…” A large red section labeled as a tornado warning with a perfectly defined rotation on the radar was heading over our house. It was also near the area we had boarded our two dogs. My heart sank.
Picture obtained from Weather.gov
They didn’t let our flight return to Dallas until after midnight. And, by that time, our once perfect child was screaming her head off as the pilot tried to crack jokes and calm worrisome nerves, children and flight attendants (most whom were from the Dallas area). Once 2a.m. hit, we landed and ran to our baggage claim among crowds of people whose outgoing flights had been canceled. In a matter of 45 minutes, we found out our luggage and car seats were missing and were told to go stand in line along with over a hundred others in the same situation. By that point, we were crying, angry, frustrated, fearful and fortunate (although, the fortunate part doesn’t hit us until later). As our 1 1/2 year old finally went from inconsolable to passed out from exhaustion in my arms, they found our luggage and car seats at the end of that line right as we approached the counter. By this point, however, we had already called our in laws that lived close to the airport, who had a car seat in their truck, to rescue us. We rushed into the truck in the rain and got back around 4a.m.
I woke up the next morning realizing where I was, why I was there and that I hadn’t seen our home yet. We turned on the news to find that our normal route back home was closed and that there were fatalities reported on that roadway was the reason..around 7p.m. that evening….7p.m…..at George Bush and 30…the exact place David, Cece, my unborn daughter and I would have been coming home from our flight that evening. There were multiple tornadoes and fatalities from the round of storms. Had our flight not been diverted, we could have been among those fatalities. This is where the fortunate part hit us.
As we got closer to our home, the debris span grew larger and larger. Our hearts started to race. The news said the tornado crossed the lake over by our area. We pulled into our home to find it still there, but the heartbreak of seeing all the debris around us and knowing this was someone’s property was hard to take. Siding, roofing, metal, and a trash can we found on the side of the road that read “City of Garland” on it. That area was over 10 miles from us and flew all the way here.
A year later, I sit here with the memory in my head. While I wasn’t in that storm, it was enough to shake us to our core. We can only imagine the fear, pain, heartbreak and devastation others went through there on the ground as we waited in the air above the chaos in all of those cities. A year later, we still find debris on our property and I still pick up the pieces knowing a sweet child would have been 2. Or, that a family has lost their parent(s) or relatives and there is a vacancy in their hearts that can’t be replaced. Most of these families had celebrated Christmas a day prior and are now struggling to associate a happy day with something other than tragedy. Our hearts remember and grieve with them. As we end another year, we hope you take the time to be thankful for each other.
Tonight, we are keeping the victims, their familia and friends and everyone in our prayers that we all may find peace and solitude through difficult times.