Updated: Apr 8, 2020
In mid-March, what would normally have been a single day of air travel, turned into a 29-hour trip for CCC staff Nidia Panameno and Karina Gallegos.
“Everything started off okay,” said Panameno, “but it didn’t take long for the problems to start.”
The women were accompanying two children in CCC’s care in Virginia to be reunified with their families in Texas.
Under the Office of Refugee Resettlement regulations governing the children’s care, and with the growing threat from COVID-19, timing was critical.
“The world was changing so quickly and there were rumors that domestic air travel would be stopped,” said Children’s Services Program Manager, Bob Larkin.
Larkin and his team had worked tirelessly behind the scenes getting paperwork and approvals for the trip and had planned the details carefully.
“When we got to Atlanta,” said Gallegos, “we learned that an air traffic control employee at the Indianapolis airport had tested positive for the virus but had gone to work anyway. This caused flights to be delayed and all of the gates at the Atlanta airport were full.”
With the gates full, the group missed its connecting flight to Houston and was stuck in the terminal for several hours. When they finally boarded their connecting flight, the exhausted children immediately fell asleep.
“When we landed, the kids stopped by the restroom to look in the mirror to make sure that their hair looked okay for their parents,” said Gallegos. “There were so many tears and hugs when the families were reunited. It was a very special moment.”
With their mission accomplished, the women were ready to go home. Unfortunately, their earlier delays were still catching up with them and they were in for many, many more hours of travel.
Instead of the quick trip home they’d planned, they flew from Houston to Denver; Denver to New Jersey; and finally, from New Jersey to Richmond.
After 29 hours, they were home.
“I was on pins and needles until they got back,” said Larkin. “With everything they went through, they never complained once.”
Both women self-quarantined following this experience.