From Italy to New York
Angels on Earth|Sept/Oct 2020
2 flights and 5 angels got me home
STU REININGER

Dad, we want you to come home.” Even through the poor Skype connection I could see the tightness of Karin’s face, hear the stress in her voice.

“I can’t do it, sweetheart. Everything’s closed. Flights are canceled. The whole country is shut down. Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

“But we’re anxious and wish you were back in the States, at least in the same time zone.”

I had planned to sit out the crisis right where I was—in southern Italy, near Calabria, where I lived and worked as a yacht captain for half the year. But if my family needed me, I had to get back to Connecticut. My work here had dried up anyway. “I’ll do my best,” I promised Karin.

ANGEL #1

I tried to find a flight online but had no luck, then called a travel agent friend, Sue.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she said.

Meanwhile I managed to cobble together a pair of flights that would get me to New York in midApril, almost a month away. It would cost a fortune—more than $1,000—and could be canceled at any minute, but what choice did I have? I entered my credit card information. The website didn’t accept it. I tried another. Same problem. What on earth?

I thought. None of my cards work!

I held for the online help desk and gave up when Sue called back. “Can you leave on Saturday?” she asked. It was Thursday.

“Yes!” I replied quickly. Sue had found a Saturday flight on Alitalia from Lamezia Terme International Airport, in Calabria, to Rome.

“You’ll have a one-hour layover in Rome,” Sue said, “and then take a KLM flight from Rome to JFK in New York—all for only $400.”

It sounded too good to be true— and it was. Why had I given up on the online help desk? “Lamezia Terme is closed,” I said. “They just announced it.”

“Closed except for a flight for medical personnel and equipment. I pulled strings and got you a seat. The flight leaves Saturday at 11 a.m.”

I had one day to figure out how to get to the airport in Calabria. That wouldn’t be easy. Under Italy’s nationwide lockdown, a form had to be completed every time you left the house, even for the grocery or the pharmacy. Driving out of town entailed a whole new layer of regulations, including stamped and certified permission from police headquarters, which was manned only two days a week, neither of them Thursday or Friday.

It was time to call Pina.

ANGEL #2

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