As I write this post I am sitting in a terminal in the Atlanta airport waiting for my flight. I look around and see waves and waves of people from all walks of life, ethnicity and national origin. They’ve come here from all parts of the world as a leg or final destination of their journey; all so different, yet all alike.
By the time you have made it through the full body scan, pat down and disrobing security process you seem to be striped of your individuality and you are just like everyone else who just went through the same irritating and somewhat humiliating procedure just to board a plane.
As I look around I don’t see a variety of political, religious and social beliefs I simply see people, people just like me trying to get by in life the best they can. It is odd how you feel that connection to strangers in an airport.
Our political beliefs cover the full spectrum of ideas but when you strip away that thin layer of differences our connection is a spiritual connection that we are all children of a higher being. We share similar hopes and dreams of freedom, security financial success, and personal liberty, healthy and happy families. We are all very much alike.
I remember the Bay area Earthquake October 17th 1989 at 5:04 PM in the Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose California area. The World Series had just started at Candlestick Park in San Francisco and the stadium was filled to capacity when the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit.
Within minutes the Oakland Bay Bridge crashed into the ocean killing the handful of people in their cars. The irony is that typically at 5:04 PM on a weekday that bridge would normally be packed bumper to bumper with traffic as workers were on their way home. But not this day, it was the World Series and Candle Stick Park was the destination of most of those vehicles. It was the savior of hundreds maybe even thousands of lives who decided to go to a ball game instead of driving the long and congested commute home.
I was in my office in a high rise building in San Jose when the quake struck. The sudden jolt and continual gyrations overturned desks, filing cabinets, and chairs and shook pictures off of the walls. I looked out the window and watched as the road in front of the office moved up and down like a wave in the sea.
The quake seemed to last forever as we were all frozen in time all wondering if this was the big one. There was nothing you could do, nowhere to go nowhere to hide. When the quake and aftershocks finally ended I felt a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude to god for sparing my life and the life’s of millions including my friends and family.
That night as I drove home my typical 30 minute drive took over two hours. Along the way I could see damage to some of the homes where front porches or chimneys pulled away from the home. Cellular phones or “car phones” as they were initially known, were fairly new and I was one of the fortunate ones to own one but I had no service all the way home. So my attempts at contacting my family were in vain, and all I could do was hope and pray that they were safe.
The oddity of the experience is that there was not one reported traffic accident or citation that evening in northern California. People would approach a non-working traffic light and politely wave people by and they took turns through the intersection. Somehow that one night each of us were able to put aside our differences in politics, religion and social beliefs and we simply became people, survivors who united in what we had in common instead of dividing with our differences.
One other oddity happened that night that did not manifest itself until nine months later. Northern California had its largest baby boom sense World War II. The survivors embraced and expressed their love for their family and friends and their gratitude for god and his saving grace. And many did more than just embrace. And yes, I will admit my wife and I also participated in the expression of love as we witnessed the birth of a beautiful baby girl July 17th, 1990 exactly nine months later to the day and almost hour.
Well my plane will be boarding soon so I need to go to my gate. One last look around and I am grateful for my connection to all of these strangers. We’re not so different after all. May their hopes and dreams come true and I hope that each of them makes it safely to their final destination.