Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trip to the Michigan Conference

What a surprise to look out the jet window and see snow everywhere when we landed at Detroit.  Marion dropped me off at SeaTac last Monday night and I flew out on the "redeye" at 11pm and arrived about 6:10 AM Tuesday. Brother Mark Smith picked me up at the Detroit airport and treated me to breakfast then took me to his house where I was able to take a short nap because it was too early to check in at the "Country Inn & Suites" in Birch Run.  

It had been about three years since I had been to the Annual Bible Conference at the Home Baptist Church in Mt. Morris.  Everything about my stay and the conference was outstanding. Pastor Dan Gordon told me I was scheduled to preach on Thursday evening in the first slot.  As usual, the hospitality of Home Baptist Church was above and beyond what one would normally expect.  The food, fun and fellowship was divine.

They have audio clips of all the sermons in the conference on their website HERE. Mine was the second to the last on "A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ."

After the conference, I rode back to the Detroit airport with Elder Ted Tweet, from the So. Pk Miss. Bapt. Church in Seattle.  He had rented a car when he arrived Tuesday afternoon.  His return flight left earlier than mine and went through Chicago.  Mine went back to Seattle via Denver.  It turned out to be quite an ordeal.

There was a bomb scare on the flight.  (Delta 1500) We arrived in Denver somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45 PM, a LOT faster than it ordinarily takes for the trip and the pilot landed quickly, announcing that if we see emergency vehicles around the plane, do not be alarmed.  He said there was an incident on the flight and he was instructed to follow normal protocol for it.  He said his experience with this kind of thing in the past has been that it turned out to be nothing but an inconvenience and he apologized for it.  Sure enough, there were fire trucks, police and aid cars every where.  They positioned a portable loading ramp at the front left passenger door and blasted the plane fuselage with a few blasts from a fire hose.  The pilot told us that a note had been found on the plane near the aft galley that referenced a bomb but he was confident that this was just a hoax. However, we needed to let the people on the ground do their job and he thanked us all for our patience.

Soon we were told that we all had to deplane and were NOT to open the overhead storage but leave all our carry on bags on the plane.  Everyone seemed to take this all in stride and the evacuation was smooth and orderly.

There were 151 passengers on the flight and 6 crew members.  The pilot had been instructed to taxi the plane to a remote part of the airport.  When we were taken off the plane, we were walked about 100 yards or so away from it and waited for further information as we stood there on the tarmac. There was the usual lighthearted joking and jesting by some of the macho men in the crowd.  It helped relieve a little bit of the tension at the moment and one of the young men I think would make a pretty good stand-up comedian.

Eventually, nature began to call and the guys were allowed to go to a place in the grass behind some of the emergency vehicles for relief.  They began trying to arrange something for the ladies too.  Several large airport buses pulled up and we were instructed to board the buses where we could sit down and enjoy the air conditioning. We were told that special K-9 units were being brought to the scene and that we were also going to be delayed longer by the FBI. Delta representatives passed out some in-flight type of snacks and bottled water.  With the dogs and bomb detection equipment, they were able to sweep the entire plane and determine that there was no bomb on board.  They loaded all the checked bags onto baggage carts and took them to the terminal where passengers could claim them in time.  We were then told to de-board the buses and leave everything that we brought off the plane on the bus while the dogs did a check of all of the buses one by one.  Once again no evidence of anything bomb related was found.  So, we were permitted to start getting our carry-on bags off the plane in small groups.  I got my bag and found my seat again on my bus.  I travel light and was not concerned about any checked baggage.

The Lead Agent from the FBI came on the bus and said he needed to do an investigation and we would be delayed until he was finished.  He made the same little speech on each bus saying if anyone wrote anything about a bomb being on the plane, even if it was only a joke, we could end this ordeal a lot quicker if they would simply step forward and say so.  Nobody did.  I called Marion and told her I was probably going to miss my connecting flight to Seattle and explained a little bit about what was happening. A little later, the FBI Agent returned and called out two names.  It was the elderly couple sitting across the aisle from me who had come from Detroit to Denver to celebrate their granddaughter's birthday.  He took them off for an interview.  When they returned, they said the note about the bomb had been written on a piece of paper that was torn off the corner of one of the menus in the row of seats where they were sitting on the plane and everyone in that immediate area was being interviewed.  It may be that the note was written on a previous flight before we all got on the plane and was only discovered on our flight.  Eventually we were told that all the buses were going to return to the main terminal together and sandwiches were given to those in the baggage claim area around 9:00 PM.  I by passed the baggage claim and went directly to the Delta ticketing desk.  There I learned that there were no more flights out to Seattle that night.  The ticket agent booked me on the first flight out in the morning on Alaska Airlines.  She gave me a voucher for a room at the Quality Inn and a shuttle ride to the hotel.   I bought a Cherry Coke and a BBQ pork sandwich at a snack bar in the lobby and turned in for the night.  Up early in the morning for a quick shower and a light complementary breakfast and then on the shuttle back to the airport where I needed to check in and go through security for my flight home.  Marion picked me up around 11:45 AM at SeaTac.  YAY!

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