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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gray

Aches on a Plane

Recently, I was waiting for a flight on American Airlines, departing from West Palm Beach, and standing around the gate area. It was during the holidays, so the gate agent made the usual announcements about the scarcity of overhead bins and how many of us would have the carry-ons snatched from our cold, dry-skinned hands and checked with the other luggage. To me, that meant all my valuables would soon disappear into the damp hands of the Palm Beach International luggage handlers or their corresponding brothers and sisters located at DFW International Airport. (I’ve never had anything stolen mainly because I guard my carry-on as if it’s holding a heart for transplanting.)

After hearing this announcement, I glanced at my boarding pass to find I was in Group 5. Since there are nine boarding groups on American Airlines, I thought I might find a space for my carry-on. This was critical, especially since I carried a computer bag that would go under the seat in front of me. Still, I was worried.

As I elbowed and jockeyed for position at the gate with the rest of my fellow passengers, I heard a loud voice from behind me, shouting, “Clear a path, please!”

Spinning around, I saw a man pushing an aching woman in a wheelchair. They had numerous carry-ons fastened to the wheelchair, which cut a wide swath through the potential passengers. Behind them was another wheelchair pushed by an airport employee. As we parted like the Red Sea, eight more wheelchairs arrived, some with spouses or fellow travelers, and others with airport employees. All of them had plenty of carry-on luggage.

I studied these disabled and infirm individuals, thankful I wasn’t one of them. Yet I wondered if perhaps one day, I may have to take my seat in a wheelchair. I shuddered at the thought.

When the announcement was made for pre-boards, including passengers who needed assistance getting down the ramp, these ten wheelchairs and their accompanying attendants started moving, disappearing from sight. Only after the ten empty wheelchairs returned to the boarding area did the agent call for Group 1. I took a deep breath and prayed it would work out for me.

Thirty minutes later, I was fastened into my seat with my carry-on safely stored above me. I was lucky. Many of the passengers were forced to check their carry-ons. I’m sure this also meant a trip to the insurance company at the end of their journey.

But this story doesn’t end here. When the plane landed, I discovered a miracle had happened. That’s the only way I can describe it. Normally, the crippled and infirm passengers—the ten confined to wheelchairs—would have to sit tight while we raced past them, ripping through the aisle to disembark. Yet an unbelievable healing had overtaken these ten passengers. That’s because I was in row 26, at the back of the plane. This gave me a clear view of the rows in front of me. Instead of finding ten sad figures hunched over in their seats, waiting for the wheelchair that would take them to freedom, I found empty spaces. Yes, none of these ten pre-boarding characters needed a wheelchair to leave.


Really, it’s a miracle. And to make it even more fantastic, I spotted one of the crippled and infirm ladies beating a fast step down the aisle, pulling her carry-on behind her like it was full of feathers. On the ramp, I saw another former wheelchair-bound passenger with his spouse—the one who had pushed him onto the plane. He waltzed all the way to the baggage claim without any help whatsoever. This led me to the only conclusion a reasonable, law-abiding citizen can come to: They were miraculously healed!

There had to be a secret ingredient in the recycled air, or maybe the free sodas and water. Something!

Whatever it was, these ten people were completely healed. No longer would they need a wheelchair to board. They walked freely, towards a new life. It almost brought a tear to my eye. Almost.

Needless to say, I’m spreading the word to all my friends: Bring your tired, injured, huddled masses in wheelchairs to pre-boarding, and perhaps they will be healed. It’s worth a shot.


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