We continue our special Thanksgiving week posts with more thoughts on the holiday from our Blog Team.
I admit that, in the past, I have taken Thanksgiving for granted, but not since 1991. Here’s why. For the month of November 1991, I had the incredible opportunity to work in Paris (France—not Texas!). My former employer, Delta Air Lines, had just purchased most of Pan Am’s European routes, and they needed experienced Employees to work alongside the former Pan Am folks. I had always wanted to work for an airline, so I put my name in the hat and was assigned Paris. My time at Orly Airport was incredible, and I got to walk the ramp among so many airlines that I had only read about like Air Algerie, Royal Air Maroc, Middle East Airlines (MEA), and Iran Air (they had a Concorde model in Iran Air livery in their ramp office). For the airplane geeks out there, I saw some rare aircraft including some charter Caravelles, MEA’s Boeing 707s on the Paris-Beirut route, and a DC-10 leased by Cubana, but the rarest of all were the Dassault Mercures of Air Inter (the domestic French airline) running out their last few weeks of service. Only ten Mercures were built (even fewer than Concorde), and its nickname was the “French 737.”
Since it was November, it meant I would be spending Thanksgiving away from home, and it was just another work day in France. Even though my French Coworkers treated me fantastically, I think that was the most homesick I felt during the month I was away. Thanksgiving is the holiday that expresses the ideals that makes America great and unique, and you don’t realize that until you are away from her shores. After that Thanksgiving, I made a vow to never be away from home on that date, and for 16 straight years, I have kept that vow, even when I had to fly home standby during a strike by American Airlines. It took a creative routing, but I made it home.
I left Paris on a grey day in early December, and a flood of emotions washed over me as the big L-1011 lifted off from Orly’s runway. I guess my feelings were pretty evident because as I cleared Customs in the Atlanta Airport, the inspector handed my passport back and gave me a heartfelt, “Welcome home!” That is the only time I have had a Customs Inspector tell me that, and it took me back a second. I recovered quickly and said: “Thank you! It is good to be home.”