Today started off as a normal day. We were supposed to fly home from Seattle, with a connection in Chicago, pick up the kiddos, and be settled back in by dinner time.
As it turns out, Mother Nature had a much different plan.
We arrived in Chicago Midway's "airspace" fairly early. Then, we circled. And circled. And circled some more. It soon became apparent that we might not land. The air was extremely turbulent, and we'd been up there for quite a while. Finally, the captain announced that we were being diverted to Omaha.
I don't think we knew how bad it was until we made it to Omaha. While we were running out of fuel, people were stuck in terrible storms below us.
We were on the tarmac in Omaha for about 90 minutes or so, waiting to see what was next. Props to Southwest Airlines. They made sure everyone stayed calm, happy, and fed while we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. I even saw flight attendants playing with some of the babies on board. In an age of dying customer service, this made me smile.
After holding and then refueling in Omaha, we headed back to Chicago for what was one hell of a landing. The storms had cleared, but the winds were incredible. Put it this way: when we finally did land (to much applause) and we were sitting on the tarmac, waiting for a gate to open, the plane was swaying back and forth.
We got off the plane and ran from one end of Concourse B to the exact opposite end of Concourse A and got there just 20 minutes before the next flight to Orlando was scheduled to depart (we'd missed our original connection). Again, Southwest stepped up -- holding the plane to make sure that every single person who was bumped from that first flight got on to this one. We were the last two people on board, and we landed in Orlando amazingly just three hours past our original arrival time.
I'm definitely feeling grateful tonight as I continue to read stories and see photos of the devastation. Thankful that all we experienced was some inconvenience, and heartbroken that there are many who lost everything. My thoughts go out to everyone who was affected by those horrible tornados today.