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08 November 2013 @ 01:03 pm
The Gunman and the Accident  
We also had a little bit of excitement both on the way up to and on the way back from the con. (And i guess given the sensationalist title that i ought to indicate up front that Avalyn and i are both perfectly fine =)

So apparently for a few people their primary sources of "on the scene" news about the LAX gunman last friday were Grant Imahara (and/or other Mythbusters possibly) tweeting about the chaos breaking loose in Terminal 3, and me tweeting about how absolutely nothing was happening in Terminal 4. (And oddly, some of those tweets about how nothing was happening got favorited and retweeteed.)

I was a little late getting up to Avalyn's place friday morning because of traffic, so we ended up leaving her place close to 8:30. We got to the Marriott where she was leaving her car just a little before 9, and luckily (even luckier than we knew) there was a shuttle waiting there just about to leave.

I believe we got to the airport just after 9, printed out our tickets at a kiosk since we only had carry-ons, and went through security. We got stuck with the naked scanners and both opted to get Fondled for Freedom instead, but still got through relatively quickly.

About 9:20ish we got to our gate and sat down. Avalyn wandered off to look to see if there was anyplace to get a drink or anything like that. About 10-15 minutes later she comes back, talking on her phone, and says "tell Donaithnen what you just told me" and hands me the phone. At which point her sister tells me that everyone on the internet is talking about a gunman at LAX shooting people. To which my response was kind of a confused "huh, okay, i'll look into that, thanks."

So i do a quick twitter search for "LAX" and of course find the mish-mash of news and rumor. So since i had mentioned a week or so a go that we were flying up to ConVolution this weekend, i tweeted that we were at LAX but that nothing seemed to be happening where we were. With some followups about how despite the news that LAX was being evacuated, those of us in Terminal 4 were just sitting around waiting for our planes. In fact for at least the next 20ish minutes none of the other passengers in the Terminal even seemed to know anything had happened. Avalyn had been wandering around while talking to her sister on her phone and when she came back said she'd heard some of the staff talking about it. After that point we started gradually hearing more and more people speaking in low voices about gunmen and evacuations and delays and etc.

I did some searches to try and figure out where exactly Terminal 3 was in relation to us and what airlines were in that terminal. I discovered that Terminal 4 was immediately after Terminal 3 in the series, but that the airport does a U-turn between 3 and 4, so were were actually on the opposite side of the complex, with two streets and some parking lots between here and there. I also discovered that of the usual five or six airlines i usually consider for trips like this, four of them flew out of Terminal 3. (I can't remember exactly how many of them showed up in the search for this particular flight, but still.)

Around 10:30 the official American Airlines twitter account, which had noticed my tweets, informed me that LAX had put a hold on all departures and we should go talk to an agent. At the same time the agents at the gate had already started boarding for our plane. A few minutes later they called our group, and just because things weren't quite uncertain enough when the agent scanned our tickets the machine started beeping. I was thinking "oh crap, what now", but another agent took the tickets, looked something up on the computer, and told us that we'd been moved to the exit row. I'm not sure why, but that was actually kind of an improvement. When i'd gotten the tickets there were no two seats next to each other, so i'd ended up picking two seats where one was right in front of the other. Although after we were already halfway down the ramp i did have the sudden thought that given that there may or may not have been a gunman still running around (of course they'd caught him by that point, but it wasn't clear at that point if that story was true or not, or if there were any other gunmen or not) and according to a lot of the news sources all of LAX was being evacuated and all flights were grounded, that there were much higher odds than usual that we might actually have to use the emergency exit.

But by 10:45 we were in our seats, and the attendants were still claiming we were going to leave soon. Then at 10:50ish we were told that we were just waiting just a little bit longer because a few passengers had gotten delayed going through security. Which seemed like a morbidly amusing understatement. But a few minutes later they were apparently on board and we started taxiing out, and very shortly thereafter we were taking off.

So yeah, according to a lot of the reports at the time all of LAX was being evacuated and no flights were taking off. Instead it seems that possibly just one or two terminals were evacuated, and although LAX issued a "ground stop", it was mainly directed at incoming flights, not outgoing ones. This article (to pick one at semi-random) starts out saying "No flights are departing from Los Angeles International (LAX) in the wake of a shooting at the airport this morning." but then follows it up later with "It's fair to say that every flight out of LAX today will be significantly delayed," and then ended with "Of the 1,144 flights scheduled to operate at the airport today, there were 65 departures cancelled, 61 arrivals cancelled, 113 departures delayed, and 119 arrivals delayed, according to FlightAware.com."

So apparently "no flights departing" and "every flight delayed" actually means 11% canceled and 20% delayed. I guess it goes to show that twitter and early news reports (themselves probably at least partially based on twitter) may be great for getting the gist of things pretty quickly, but not so great on the details.

The flight home was mostly uneventful. Certainly nothing compared to crazed gunman blasting away 1000 feet away from us at least. We got to the airport, got lucky with the security check and ended up in a line with no naked scanner, and got through with plenty of time to spare. We stopped to get some lunch at, uh, some San Francisco Soup place. Then we went to our gate and didn't have very long to wait before being boarded. The flight was quick of course, and on arrival at LAX we went out to the ground transportation to catch a shuttle back to the Marriott to pick up Avalyn's car.

So we waited, and we waited, and we waited. We saw at least two Hilton shuttles go by before the Marriott one finally showed up. (I was saying right before that that if we saw a third Hilton bus we ought to take that and then walk to the Marriott.)

The whole time we were waiting we were watching cars and shuttles and busses and what-have-you merging crazily and honking at each other. And then we got on the shuttle, and it took off, swerving much more and accelerating much more than i would have felt comfortable doing in traffic like that. So i leaned over to Avalyn and said something along the lines of "with the crazy traffic around here i'm amazed there aren't 20 crashes a minute, especially given the way our driver is driving." Avalyn agreed with me, and then about 15-30 seconds later... *swerve!* *honk!* *lurch!*

At the time we swerved over i saw a car to our right that i think was merging into the same lane as us, so i figured we'd collided with him. However when the driver pulled over after going a little bit further (past the area where the merging and exit lanes were) the only other vehicle that pulled over was another shuttle. The driver got out and went and talked to the driver of that shuttle for a bit, then came back and asked if everyone was alright, to which we all said yes, and then we continued on our way.

When we got to the Marriott and got out i wandered around the back of the bus and saw that instead of the right side like my initial impression would have led me to expect, there were some scrapes along the read left corner of the shuttle. So i guess he tried to move to the right, couldn't because of the car that was there, then swerved back and hit the shuttle trying to merge into the space we'd been previously trying to vacate?

In any case we drove home, then took Avalyn's sister out to dinner at Luna Park to thank her for taking care of Avalyn's kitty while we were away, then went back to Avalyn's place and watched the latest episode of Dracula, then took a brief nap, and then i headed home to take care of my own kitty before i collapsed.
 
 
 
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on November 10th, 2013 09:36 am (UTC)
Every. Single. Time. I have ever known "what really happened" for an incident that makes its way into the news, the news outlets have some major factual errors. Every time.

I tend to forget that when I'm reading newspapers as actual sources of information for events I know nothing about though. I do try to read with skepticism, but your story is yet another reminder about how incorrect they can be.

I remember my college graduation -- the photo they had of the graduation speaker was clearly some photo of him from some other location with the HMC logo photoshopped onto the podium, because his uniform color was wrong. He was wearing white in the photo and green in the pictures my family took (or vice versa, I can't remember now.) I don't think he changed uniforms just to give a speech to HMC staff in another room on the same day in front of a different podium.

If they'd just titled it him and didn't say it was him at our graduation, then ok, maybe they didn't send a photographer and used a stock photo. That would be merely intentionally misleading.

But the photoshopping of the HMC logo? Come on. That wasn't necessary.

Glad no one was hurt in the accident.

--Beth