|Picture by Greg Semendinger of the NYPD (from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8508817.stm)|
But as the events unfolded post-incident, the plans went topsy-turvy. Firstly, all flights were not on schedule even domestic. Security was on high alert..even handbags need to be checked in. This was not good news for a Malaysian student and family leaving the UK for good. Especially when my daughter was still on diapers and relying heavily on milk for sustenance.
So, MrA decided we should just give up the flight tickets from Prestwick and decided to rent a car to Heathrow. Nevermind, that he had to drive us and all our worldly belongings for 8 long hours. Just as long as we had the assurance that we could get to Heathrow on time.
At Heathrow, there was uncertainty as many flights were cancelled. Our flight was at 2pm but we were already lining up at the counter 4 hours before. Lucky for us we were the first and we had no problem checking in -- perhaps it was my daughter's adorable face (yes..let Mama indulge) that got us through.
But at customs we were given a thorough once-over..was it because of our Muslim names, I wonder? Anyway, I could understand the paranoia. But when the officer decided to look into my daughter's diapers for suspect items, it was a wee bit much. Of course, we got through and I'm sure the officer was relieved that there wasn't anything in her diapers either.
Once we got into the gate area, we were shocked. Not one of the flights listed for the day was confirmed and many were cancelled especially those to US. People were lying around everywhere and were walking towards the boards to check out flights every few minutes. We ended being there for close to five hours before our flight was ready for boarding. Timely too as our ration for diapers were dwindling and there wasn't much on offer in terms of food. But we got home safe, Alhamdulillah.
Prior to that, we had no problem travelling from one country to another - we did quite a bit of Europe without the slightest hassle. But since then, travelling is not that pleasant - just ask anyone who have been to countries that eye Muslims and Asians with suspicion. Especially those in my profession.
That day in 2001 changed it all.