It was 9:58 a.m., the weather was clear and sunny and 64 degrees, when the flight from Hartford, Conn., Crashed at Tampa International Airport. Half an hour later, when the excited first round of hugs was over, Anne Collord looked out of the terminal, already confused by the changing landscape.
It was 26 degrees when we got in the car this morning, she said with a laugh.
Her husband, Barry, flattened one hand and raised it dramatically until it leveled with the tip of his nieces’ head. Anne and Barry had not seen Faye, 12, for two years, since the last Thanksgiving Day that someone considered quite normal.
Isn’t she tall? Asked Fayes’s father, Brian Collord. He had Faye standing next to Anne, who was now slightly teary-eyed. Grandmothers still have you for a few inches.
A few minutes ago, as she and Brian waited for JetBlue 533 Flight passengers to board PF Changs, Faye was asked how her fat had changed in addition to her height since she last saw her grandparents.
Just change the way you see things, she said.
Wednesday scene at the airport also looked different from a year ago. In 2019, airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said 70,000 arriving and departing passengers passed through the airport the day before Thanksgiving. Last year, with the pandemic still raging and vaccines a few months away, that number dropped to 48,000.
This year, the airport expected a return of 70,000 passengers on Wednesday, with more than 80,000 flying in or out on Saturday and Sunday. Those days are usually the three busiest airports of the year.
And so, on Wednesday, the main terminal was buzzing with activity, with masked passengers running in front of a tall Christmas tree, with irresistible shouts and hugs from the newlyweds. People listed the dishes they would make or swallow on Thursday sweet potato puree or stuffing or baked ziti and offered, without being encouraged, that they were not only vaccinated but also fortified.
Nancy Becker, who makes the baked zit, sat outside another set of gates as her 6-year-old great-grandson, Andrew, rolled on the floor and declared himself a potato. She was waiting, she said, for her cousins.
I held them a couple of years ago, when they were roughly his age, she said, waving Andrew.
It was more like a few decades since the kids were grown up now, in their 20s and living in New York City. She was proud of them, she said. How many had fought one at school until the light bulb lit up over her head, and now she is studying to become a lawyer. How the two lived in different apartments in the same building, in order to take care of each other.
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Their New York Italian family was closely related, she said, but not as large as it once was.
We used to be over 40 for holiday meals, she said. They were now at 10. Here’s what happens.
A rush of passengers appeared from the direction of the gates. Her face lit up.
Here they are! she said.
A flock of hearts in the shape of hearts and stars stood nearby. Marilin Perez took them from her husband, Mario, and started walking to the terminal.
She nervously wrapped the strands around her hand, untied them, wrapped them again. Five years ago, she said, she and Mario moved to Florida from Venezuela to escape their country’s economic crisis. Half a dozen waiting relatives were still living there and it had been four years since they had seen the spill.
The flight transporting them from their connection to Dallas had been delayed 13 minutes, and now that they were here, how long could it take for them to get off the plane?
This is eternal, Marilyn told her daughter, who was supposed to work, but called the video to see the reunion.
Then her aimless rhythm turned into a line, the balloons on her doorstep and she darkened into a crowd of hugs. Soon more relatives will come, this time from Chile.
And on Thursday, they will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, which Perez has received in recent years.
Man can adapt to anything, said Marilyn Perez. What we eat, how we sleep. But you do not fit in with the family you lack.
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