Monday, October 25, 2010

Bringing the Spirit Home...Part 1

I knew when I headed into my "airline camp" weekend it was going to be a lot different than last time. I knew I was going to be able to do a lot more and it would be a much less physically taxing experience than my last trip to the Delta HQ campus. I wasn't prepared for it to be an emotional journey also. So I found myself very overwhelmed sitting nearly alone in an airport hangar, staring at a 767 and crying.

Actually the emotions started walking to the Heritage Museum from the hotel. I did much of that walk in 2007 and I struggled. I had to keep stopping, I didn't think I could do it and every step I worried about catching my foot or my leg giving out and landing face down on the sidewalk.

This year it was like doing it as another person. Not only in great heels, but without a single thought of tripping and at the front of the pack. For the rest of the group walking on the campus was about the buildings and where we were, but for me it was about just being able to walk and to do it without thought or effort.

As we rounded the corner near the museum I had to laugh at myself as I thought "we're here already, hmmm I remember it being a lot further away".

For anyone who hasn't been to the Delta Heritage Museum it is comprised of two hangars. The first holds many of the early planes and memorabilia of not only Delta, but also Northwest and the other airlines that were bought or merged with Delta over the years. This building also holds the museum gift shop (I bought a bright pink luggage tag!).

Walking into the first building my emotions were mostly about Delta Airlines. It hit me how if two things in recent history had gone differently, the attempted take over by US Airways or the merger, all this might not exist any longer. Having been a part of the "Keep Delta My Delta" effort, that was a heavy reality. But nothing like what was to come next.

In the second hangar is the Spirit of Delta, the 767 purchased by Delta employees that I was describing in an earlier post.  She has the hangar mostly to herself (other than her companion the Platinum Moodalian).

And when you walk in the gleaming 767 an impressive site, especially if there are very few people in the hangar. Ironically when I entered one of only two in there at the moment was Brian, who had been with my on my visit in 2007 and who also flew on one of the Spirit retirement flights. There was probably no one on the planet I would rather have had there at the moment.

Now some confessions about my last trip to see the Spirit, right after she was placed in the museum, for as much as I wanted to reboard the plane, after having flown the "Bring the Spirit Home" flight a year earlier, when I was at the museum in 2007. I didn't...because frankly I COULDN'T. There was no way physically I could manage the stairs at that point. I didn't have the strength to climb them, and I was more scared of falling coming down them. I had to sit and watch while others walked through her interior, which is now a museum in its own.

While my friends were climbing up on her engines and having photos taken, I stood on the ground watching, because it was all I could do.

There was no way this year that was going to be. For me standing in that hangar every sore muscle, every dollar spent, every lunge I have grumbled through and every stress I have faced working out with trainers for a year became worth it.

I was able to climb those stairs, board that plane, sit in the seat I sat in on the retirement flight (and easily fit) and bring MY spirit home.

It is hard to put into words the catharsis I found in that hangar. I had no clue I had left so many ghosts behind, until I stood and faced them in the shadow of that beautiful bird.

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