Finally, I am Home!
By Olga Sapp
Russian woman story about misadventures during her trip from a home town in Latvia to a new home in America after September, 11
The Jacksonville, Fla. that seemed boring when I left, became desirable a week before my return flight home. The trip was long and stressful. Sometimes I thought I wouldn't reach my destination But let me tell you everything step by step.
On September 11 I was on my way from Riga (Latvia) to the forestry where my mother and sister live and my neighbor told me the horrible news. At first I decided the woman, my neighbor, was insane or didn't understand much of the radio news. I didn't want to believe that this could happen because the evil deed was simply beyond human comprehension. But when I watched the Sky Scrappers on TV blowing up, falling, and thousands of people buried alive, I was shocked.
Then I thought about my upcoming trip from Riga to New York in five days. My relatives and friends expressed their concern and asked what I was going to do. I knew nothing. I got no information from the American embassy or the Czech airlines. I packed my bags on September 15. My friends came to say goodbye. Early in the morning we went to airport where I found out all the flights to New York would not resume until September, 16. I started to check my luggage in and the girl at the desk stopped and said,
"We have a new order to register the luggage only
I will try to explain my relationship with Latvia. After the USSR collapsed every republic became independent. One third of the Latvian population was Russian and those people suddenly had no citizenship. I was born in Latvia, received the passport of an alien, and became a stranger in my own country.
I decided it would be useless to argue with the girl at the registration desk. I went to the Airline office and had a vain conversation with the person in charge. They reissued my tickets to Prague for next Sunday and to New York the following day. I had to spend a night in Prague hotel on air company expense. I retrieved my suitcases and go back to the forestry with the people who came to see me off. On the way back my mother embraced me again.
I was scared to write my husband about what happened. He was waiting for my return with impatience and anxiety. "Oh, my lovely wife, lost in the space of the planet, you belong to the world but you don't have a country to call home. Why doesn't anybody care about you? Only I am waiting for you here."
Next day I went to Riga. It had been raining for two weeks and finally the Sun came out and warmed my native city. I saw how beautiful it was, renewed for it's 800-year anniversary. I was told at the Czech embassy that the consulate department is open only on Tuesdays and I had to wait for my visa for a week or more. I talked to the consul. He called Prague air company, then Riga, and said that I don't need a visa.
My sister and I went to the airport again. I was given a nonstop ticket so I would not have to spend a night in Prague, but the flight was to Kennedy airport and they do not have any connecting flights to Jacksonville. I had to wait until my flight the next day from Newark
My husband wrote me anxious letters and advised me to stay with a friend in New York until next Friday. He was going to come and drive me home. He was afraid something would happen to me during the flight.
Sunday morning we returned to the airport and had the
same discussion with the same girl. I started to scream
company's manager said "Ok, let's take our chances." And they
registered my luggage to Prague.
It took me only 30 seconds to register my luggage in Prague and the flight to the USA was two hours late. A Czech officer checked my luggage conscientiously, confiscated manicure scissors and a battery for my camera. They promised to return everything in New York.
Finally, our plane landed in America. The landing was greeted by a wild ovation from the passengers. We couldn't believe our luck.
I heard English and calmed down. I was not nervous when I was sent to the customs department that handled agriculture because I wrote in my declaration that I was carrying food. The" food " was a small pack of dried white mushrooms my Mom sent to my husband for mushroom soup. After a long fuss over the combination lock on my luggage and, with joined efforts, we opened my suitcase. The Customs officer smelled the pack, said "Smells good", and put the mushrooms back in the suitcase.
At the transportation department I was ordered, "Hurry up, take a cab, and go to Newark so you can catch the last flight to Jacksonville." I rushed like crazy to get the cab. When we approached Manhattan, I thought; "What if I miss my plane? What if there were no tickets? Turn back!" I screamed to the Arabian taxi driver. He got scared, pushed the brakes, and went in the opposite direction to my friend's house 15 minutes from Kennedy airport. We drove for two hours to her house because many city streets were closed and we had to take the back roads. I was screaming and asking questions constantly. To settle me down the taxi driver turned off the meter half of an hour before we arrived. I got out and fell in my friend Ira's arms.
I sat at the table and drank Moldavian red Champagne that
was bought on Brighton Beach just for me. I ate raw fish from a Japanese
restaurant and, while falling asleep, listened to my friend's boisterous
"Go on, don't stop." a soldier screamed at me, when I stopped, shocked by the view of the burned buildings. It still smelled of burning and there were policemen everywhere. Many streets were closed and people passed me with worried faces; many of them were crying. I passed over the Brooklyn Bridge and looked at the beautiful, impoverished city through the morning fog and thought " Oh, New York, New York, why did our first meeting happen at such a tragic time? I can't dry your tears, I can only cry with you."
In few hours I was on a half empty plane to Jacksonville, shaking after every bump and drop from turbulence due to the weather. The Florida night sky sparkled with lights and I finally I heard on the microphone that we were approaching Jacksonville
Oh God, I was waiting for this moment for so long! I was passing through the small, quiet airport and Warren, my husband, was running to meet me with open arms
September, 2001 Jacksonville, Fl
Translated by Alla Musshorn
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