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Manhattan may be the destination for hundreds of trains from all over the country and Brooklyn may have its shipyards, but unless you are a bird, the only way you can fly into New York City is via JFK or LaGuardia airports in good old Queens, N.Y.
Airports are fascinating. I remember when I was a child growing up in Astoria my parents would take my brothers and me to a great spot (I cant remember exactly where, but it was right in the middle of a residential neighborhood) where the planes would fly low into LaGuardia.
We would park the car and get out and watch as one plane after another flew overhead. We watched in astonishment, not even being able to imagine that we ourselves might actually be looking down from one of those windows one day. I remember distinctly thinking that if we reached just a little higher we could touch the big gleaming silver belly as it roared past. It was one of the most exciting feelings in the world for three little kids.
As I grew older, airplanes and airports were more a matter of welcoming people or dropping them off. With a close loved one, youd wait with them at the gate. There was the whole ritual of parking the car then shuffling the luggage through the lot to check in and then the gate where you could actually sit and wait for take-off.
Now after all these years of plane-watching and airport visits and drop-offs, its my turn to climb inside one of those gleaming silver bellies in the airport at JFK.
Im pretty nervous about it. The only experience Ive had with planes has come from television, the experiences of others and my sighting-seeing at LaGuardia Airport as a child.
I do know that since Sept. 11, 2001, the airport (and for that matter everywhere else people gather) is a different place. You cant go to the gate if you dont have a ticket so no more family farewells there. You have to pack anything with a sharp edge, such as nail clippers, in your checked suitcase. And there are inspections.
Its a shame the airports cant still be a place where people socialize before a flight, daydream while watching planes take off and land and just enjoy the magic of travel.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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