A few months back, I posted a column about my enormous fear of flying. The thought of being in a vessel that I could not control and the fact that my wheelchair would be taken off to some darkened underbelly frightened me beyond belief. Today, I can happily say that my fear of flying has been conquered twice.
I will admit that in the days leading up to my flight, I remained quietly mortified. I thought of all the things that could go wrong. Would my wheelchair get off the plane in one piece? What would happen if I broke a bone in flight? Thankfully, none of these catastrophic things happened at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite (for the most part). The night before my flight, I said goodbye to my loved ones. I did not want to let them in on how nervous I really was. There was no reason to plant the seed of fear in them about me traveling. I said an extended prayer before going to sleep that night.
On November 13, 2012, I woke up, gathered my belongings, and headed to the airport. I arrived at LaGuardia Airport via Access-A-Ride. Although I was dropped off at the wrong terminal, my travel companion and great friend Alex Truesdell still managed to meet up with me. Together we boarded a shuttle bus for the right terminal. We arrived at Terminal C, checked our luggage, got searched, and then sat down and talked for a few. On our boarding passes, it stated that we could board the plane early, which I thought was nice a gesture. I had envisioned the plane packed with many people.
Then a TSA worker came to take my wheelchair to the cargo area of the plane. I began to feel a large knot forming in my throat. In that I moment, I decided that I had to take control of my fear. I said, ”Tamara you can do this, your wheelchair will be safe. You are going to Ohio for a great honor and experience, so let’s do this!” As I was rambling on in my head, the TSA worker said that it would be okay and that he’d take good care of my chair. “How do you operate it?” he asked. That was all the reassurance I needed. This gentleman made me feel as though he understood how important my wheelchair was to me, and that he wanted to do his best to make sure it was cared for appropriately.
I was then wheeled onto the plane by a flight attendant. Alex followed closely behind and when we finally arrived at our seats, my anxiety was a distant memory. I was happy and proud that I was taking this step. Taking off, landing, and looking through the window were the highlights of the flight for me. I felt emotionally and physically free while in the air.
When we arrived in Ohio for the OCALICON conference, we met some of the friendliest and most warm-hearted people I had ever come across in my life. It felt nearly surreal. Being accustomed to the pace and vibe of New York, Ohio was a breath of fresh air. I now fantasize about Ohio as my new home town.