I looked at Felicia and she looked a bit concerned too but as I looked around the cabin no one else seemed to notice the popping noise at all. There was a gentleman across the isle from me, dressed in a suit and tie. He was reading the sports page of the Pensacola News Journal. He never looked away from his paper. Apparently Felicia and I were the only ones who seemed to be concerned. I felt pretty stupid when it dawned on me that the sound I was hearing was the landing gear. We were approaching the Atlanta airport. The aircraft sped up and then slowed again. Faster, then slower as the pilot lined up for a landing. Moments later we were taxing to our gate.
Looking out the window it was much different than Pensacola. At the Pensacola airport there were only four aircraft parked at the one concourse. In Atlanta there were hundreds parked at many concourses.
We didn’t have to change concourses in Atlanta and there was about an hour in between arriving and leaving for New York’s JFK Airport. Felicia and I found a snack bar and had a diet coke. It was all new to us. We were tired but excited.
Our flight from Atlanta to New York followed the East Coast. It took two hours but it seemed like moments and we were landing at JFK. We were in New York City. Well at least at a New York Airport. I must admit to you that I never saw even the skyline of Manhattan but it was still New York.
It wasn’t even lunch time yet and we were in for a long wait for our nine o’clock flight. To make things harder we had to keep up with our four large suitcases and our carry on bags during the wait. With the load there was no need to try and leave the airport so we found seats in our departure concourse and waited. I don’t remember much about that time except it was long. We had a nine hour wait which would be followed by nearly thirty hours of flying and layovers before landing in Bangalore. I do remember having my first Nathan’s New York Hotdog for lunch. It was pretty good.
After a long wait the Air India ticket counter finally opened. It was so nice to finally get rid of those four large bags for a while.
Arvind had given me the dress code for preaching in India. “Suits! All Suits!” he said. I’m not sure that was the custom as much as that’s how Arvind wanted me to dress. Having never flow commercial and having heard horror stories about lost luggage I prepared for the worst. Most of my clothes, including all of my suits and a pair of dress shoes were framed into a roll up garment bag that I was using as carry on luggage. If our luggage was lost I’d still have suits.
Just a little over a decade before our trip an Air India 747 went down in the Atlantic ocean because of a bomb detonation at 31,000 feet. Not long before our trip TWA Flight 800 went down just off the coast of New York because of an explosion. The security at the gate of our flight was extremely tense and thorough. Every cary on bag was being searched. I didn’t know this was going to be the case or I wound not have so overpacked my roll up garment bag. When the poor lady unzipped it, Well lets just say, we had a mess on our hands. It took me a while to get everything back in place and force the zippers but it was done and we waited in a large waiting room to board.
We were already lonely. At least ninety percent of those waiting with us were of some eastern decent. They all appeared to be Indian. We hadn’t left New York yet but we were already in India. It sure would have been nice to have had Arvind with us. Even the promise of an American missionary waiting in Bangalore would have brought some level of comfort. We were about to fly over eight thousand miles to a foreign country where there would be no familiar faces. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now but it was then. We were leaving the country for the first time in our lives, alone.