Ah, yes, JFK. My second least favourite airport in the world after CDG in Paris. Since I have never lived in the NYC area I have successfully avoided it for the most part. But I have had to fly in or through there a few times and both my most memorable airplane/airport experiences happened there, both in the late 1980’s.
The first was when my boyfriend at the time and I were going on a little mid-winter romantic vacation to Barbados and St. Lucia, flying on the now defunct Pan Am. All the passengers were getting on board and settling in their seats. We had a window seat near the wing. The passenger in the row in front of us started a commotion and was pointing out the window. I looked out and saw what she saw: One of the flaps on the wing of the plane was completely mangled. Seriously mangled, as in this plane can’t possibly fly. Yet there we were on the plane and the luggage was being loaded on. So my boyfriend and I started freaking out too and called a stewardess over. She looked at it and RAN up to the cockpit. We had to deplane and wait for them to bring in another aircraft. Aduh. How could they have not noticed the wing was mangled before loading people and luggage on?????
The second was a doozy. I had been down in the Caribbean visiting a friend who co-owned a small beach front hotel. Her business partner was selling her half out to some unknown stranger… who later turned out to be a big time American mobster who was a fugitive from justice. My friend and I didn’t know who he was exactly at the time but we knew this was trouble. They were trying to “muscle” my friend out of her 50% so they could use the place as a hideaway. Thing is, they assumed we knew who this mobster was and we obviously knew where he was – so we were dead meat. That much we understood. So I wanted to get the hell out of there. Again, aduh. I flew over to Barbados and from there was supposed to catch a flight to JFK and visit my brother who lived in NYC. But two of the mobster’s two henchmen got on the flight to Barbados with me and sat next to me. Shit. They stayed with me at the Barbados airport and accompanied me on the flight to JFK. As you can imagine, I was freaking out. There was a huge snowstorm in NYC and the flight couldn’t land there till they cleared and opened the airport. So the flight was diverted to Bermuda. We were delayed long enough that they let us deplane and wait in the airport. I eyed the exits (all locked and guarded) but then I thought I’d rather try to flee at JFK than be stuck in expensive Bermuda. I know, silly. So we finally get into JFK in the middle of the night and the airport is just about dead empty. When we got to custom/immigration they, as usual, will only take one person at a time and the mobsters two goons were behind me. I got through immigration first and they were still at the desk. It is then that I fled. Never ran so fast in my life I assure you. I ran to the adjacent terminal – the old TWA terminal. It was locked up and closed. They were running after me but they were, um, fat and slow. I hid behind a trash can under one of those swooping arches you see in the picture below. For what seemed like hours. (I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie where the good guy is being chased in some vast empty space – like in Vertigo or North by Northwest). Then I ran to the next terminal. It was open but empty. There were no taxis anywhere since basically the airport was closed. A limo pulled up and let off some passengers and I begged the driver to take me out of there, preferably to Manhattan. And he did. I slouched down in the seat and didn’t poke my head up until I was in Manhattan. I never told a soul (except my brother) about this till now. I was contacted by a newspaper a few years ago when they found out about the mobster’s tropical island getaway (he only stayed there a while apparently) but declined to be quoted since the mobster hadn’t been caught yet. He was finally caught last year, the #2 man on the FBI most wanted list afer Bin Laden, and it was all over the news. I think you can figure out which mobster I’m talking about. Sends shivers down my spine just to think about it or hear his name. He’s going to be in jail for the rest of his life. I got away. My friend (the co-owner of the hotel), incidentally, also got out safely too – she left the island a couple of nights after I did, in the middle of the night, fleeing with some friends in their yacht to Martinique.