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Cut and Paste: Priority Passenger

S. T. Agam

“My chavrusa just called. There’s been a mega terror attack in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock.

"Are you serious? Where? When? Now…?!” Shmuel’s voice tore through my drowsiness. A blurry sense of urgency made me force my eyes open. “Sure, sure,” I heard Shmuel say, “of course. I’ll check with the airline.” It was close to 2 a.m. What needs checking? Doesn’t he leave for the airport soon? 

This trip had been inching through the pipeline for months. My husband’s kollel was in dire need of funds, and for various reasons he was unable to make his yearly fundraising trip earlier. Now the ticket was booked, meetings were set, and his suitcase was almost packed. I’d been snoozing when the phone call had interrupted his last-minute preparations. 

Once he realized I was awake, Shmuel brought me up to speed. “My chavrusa just called. There’s been a mega terror attack in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.” 

My brain was still foggy. It took a while to absorb the implications. Shmuel’s itinerary was through Ataturk Airport. But from what we were hearing on the news sites, the Turkish airport was a shambles, all major roads leading to the airport were closed, and flights were being canceled. 

I felt a bittersweet tug. I’m never good at goodbyes, and there’d be no one happier than I to discover that Shmuel was staying right here. But — this trip was important. He had to go. But a tragedy was still unfolding in the place where Shmuel would be heading shortly. Dozens killed. Over a hundred injured. Lives shattered. It wasn’t a comforting thought. 

“Don’t worry,” Shmuel tried to placate me. “They’ll never strike two days in a row.” I swallowed. So now I should believe in terrorist tactics? It’s a good thing I put my trust elsewhere. Together, Shmuel and I pored over my laptop, trying to pave our way through the jumbled information, desperately seeking clarity.

Photo: Shutterstock

Finally, we found the airport’s departure log. Turkish Airlines Flight 462 was listed as canceled. So was the next flight, and the one after that. We sifted through the listings until we reached TK 290 — my husband’s flight. A green button winked from the screen, formally informing us it would leave on time. On time? In light of the information on every news site, that seemed improbable. I spent the next two hours rechecking every few minutes. I was convinced the flight would be canceled, just like all the others. But, no. My feminine intuition seemed out of sync on this one (or perhaps wishful thinking was simply clouding my logic), for the clock ticked onward, and the departure details remained staunchly unchanging. At 4:30 a.m., mere hours before boarding, TK 290 was still good to go. Swallowing my not-so-secret disappointment and my mounting jitters, I acknowledged how lucky we were — Shmuel could easily have been grounded indefinitely, or worse, he could have had a booking that would have placed him right in the epicenter of disaster, chas v’shalom. I sent my husband off with a newfound sense of gratitude. Two weeks isn’t a lifetime.

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