Saturday, January 20, 2018

Travelers shaken up and stranded as LAX is thrown into turmoil

LOS ANGELES — As they fled the shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, hundreds of passengers left behind suitcases, wallets — and carefully arranged travel plans.

When the shooting ended, their odyssey was just beginning. The world's sixth-busiest airport had been severely hobbled. For hours, stranded travelers waited behind police tape, tried to reach loved ones and walked through the eerily empty roads of the airport complex looking for a way out.

The Federal Aviation Administration called for a "ground stop," meaning flights destined for Los Angeles were diverted and planes scheduled to depart from there were canceled or delayed.

With traffic blocked, the normally congested Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel next to the airport was empty of cars. Stranded passengers towed suitcases along the pavement. One woman stopped and posed for a photo, standing in the middle of the tunnel and flinging out her arms.

"This is pretty eerie," said Sandra O'Brien of Minneapolis. "It feels like the ending of a disaster movie."

Anne Tartaglia and her husband boarded a plane in Seattle for what was supposed to be a memorable introduction of their 1-year-old son to his great-grandparents in Los Angeles.

Instead, they sat in the plane on the tarmac for nearly four hours. When it eventually moved to a private hangar, they were allowed to walk off, but were stuck on the pavement in the hot sun for an hour.

"We felt alone; there wasn't really any help for families with small children," Tartaglia said. They were allowed to call a taxi, but taxis wouldn't pick them up because they didn't have a baby seat. Eventually a shuttle arrived with a seat safe enough for their son, Asher.

Outside the Radisson was an exasperated Leandro Peixoto, 37. The Los Angeles resident was worried about his 70-year-old mother, who was on the way to L.A. from Brazil for the first time. His mother doesn't speak English, Peixoto said, and wasn't carrying a phone.

"The hardest part is not getting any information or ability to reach out to anyone who knows anything about her," he said. He watched a stream of passengers leaving the airport, hoping one was his mother.

Others did their best to make light of the situation.

Bruce Kurland, 69, and Monette Clarke, 73, were set to leave for a monthlong trip to Thailand that they've been talking about since January.

At first Kurland was upset, he said, wondering why, of all days, something had to happen on this one. Then he calmed down. "The trip is an abstract because we're in a parking lot instead of a beach on Bangkok," he said. "But I'll just be thankful we weren't in there."

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