April 11, 2009 Seth Perkins

A Moment at LAX

A little over a month ago, I saw something at LAX that I really should put down here for you to read.

I arrived on an evening Delta flight from JFK.  The plane was packed.  I was seated in the very back, left side, window seat.  Obviously, it took a long time before I could even stand up.  I sat there, staring out into the dark cut with floodlights from the terminal.  About 50 meters away was another Delta jet with two firetrucks to its left and right.  Lights on.  I was concerned.  You see firetrucks once in a while, running excercises, but not too often arranged like this.  But then I understood.  An honor guard of what I’m confident were marines processed to the plane.  I saw a family begin to assemble.  The woman next to me asked what I found so interesting.  I told her I think a fallen soldier is being returned home.  She looked out the window and said, “I feel so bad for those people waiting to get off that jet.”  (there was a beat or two of silence)  I couldn’t believe I heard that.  I like to believe she just didn’t understand what was transpiring.

I disembarked, with the last of the passengers.  As I walked the jetway, my heart was in my throat.  You hear about this, but you don’t see it with your eyes.  In the terminal, the windows facing the scene were obscured.  Everyone here was oblivious.  I walked toward baggage claim and saw a single pane of glass where a gentleman stood in silence, watching.  Here, one could see that beyond the luggage equipment, beyond the dark, floodlights shown on a family.  Some hugging.  Some crying.  A white box coming down from the plane and a hearse waiting below.  I had never seen this.  I had tried to imagine a few times what this was like for these families, but I saw them there and saw their faces.  At one moment at LAX, I felt I was intruding on something extremely private, and at the same time, seeing something maybe we all should understand, because in one way or another, we’re a part of it.  The casket was loaded and the hearse drove off into the dark.  

I turned slowly to baggage claim.  My legs moved and my body followed.

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