Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The day AirFrance came to town
What a crazy day here in Toronto! As I am sure you have all heard by now, there was a plane crash at Toronto's main airport. An AirFrance flight, coming in during a spectacular storm, overshot the runway and slid off and into a ditch and ignited into flames (footage can be seen here). The news here is going crazy for the story and you can't escape it. Here's how the days events went for me.....

1:30pm - I went with another manager to a local store to set up a new display we are testing in a few stores. The weather had been sunny most of the morning with the occasional bit of rain here and there. It was HOT.... this summer has been one of the hottest on record for Toronto, and today was no exception.

2pm - While working in the store the other manager and myself heard the sudden and very LOUD downpour of rain. The sound of it pounding on the roof of this "big box" store was eerily loud. I went to the front to look outside and was *stunned* to see it looked nearly WHITE there was so much rain coming down. It looked foggy or almost even snowy it was so heavy, and I could not see my car across the parking lot. The store staff and myself stood and watched the rain for a while in utter amazement as we had never seen anything like (I even took pictures!). The sound of the rain slapping the pavement was deafening. We remarked at how it must feel to be in India where this happens often. At one point the lights had flickered in the store and the power had threatened to go out.

2:30pm - The rain had stopped for the most part and the sun came out. It seemed that the storm had gone.

3pm - I got a call from another manager back at the office taunting me that hail was hammering down on my beloved car back at the office (I had driven the company van to the store, as it was full of product for the display). It's worth noting at this point that my office is RIGHT beside the airport. In fact, this morning as I drove to work I was watching one plane come in for a landing as it floated remarkably low over the road I was driving on. In the past I have actually had to yell loudly when talking to someone while standing in the office parking lot as a plane passed low overhead (our building is right under a flight path).
But I digress! I had said to the other manager that there was no hail yet where we were, 10 mins west of the office.

3:30pm - The weather is back and more fierce than ever. Once again I gather with the staff at the front of the store to watch the weather and we are dumbstruck that it had gone from sunny to storm, and then sunny to storm yet again. We were sure the weather had passed but now we stood as hail pelted down and lightning flashed everywhere. I started to wonder just when I would ever get home (I live 40 mins away and there's no way i was going to drive in that weather).

4:30pm - working in the store all day I am unaware that there has been a plane crash 15 mins away. It figures this would be the one day I am not in front of my computer all day reading news like usual. I get a call on my cell from the office manager... she is sounding upset and is saying something about flooding and hangs up without finishing the conversation. Looking baffled I turn to the other manager I'm working with and relay that I just had a bizarre conversation with the office manager and that it sounded like something bad was happening back at the office/warehouse. 2 seconds later HIS cellphone rings and it's the office manager again. The rain is flooding the area and water is backing up into our warehouse and causing flood damage. My co-worker drops everything and rushes back to the warehouse in the storm. I remain behind to try and finish the display as the store is a complete mess at the moment thanks to us.

4:50pm - I get a call from the office manager telling me I need to get back to the warehouse, they need my help. I drop everything, apologize to the store for leaving the place in a mess and promise to come back within an hour to finish the job. I am still unaware of the airplane crash.

5:03pm - As I begin to drive back to the office I turn on the radio and hear crazed traffic reports telling people to stay away from the area around the airport including a highway that runs just south of it. I yank my car suddenly to the left... I was just about to exit onto that highway. Finally I get the full story about the crash, though details then were sketchy. I grumble that I am being told by the media to stay away from the area when that's exactly the place I need to go to. Anxious for details I begin to worry about the people on the plane.

5:30pm - I am stuck in horrendous traffic as I, and apparently everybody under the sun, am attempting to find an alternate route. As I sit in traffic numerous fire engines, ambulances and police cars race by me, sirens blaring. The rain is intermittently showering the traffic.

Alright, I'll stop the drama here. In the end I went back to the office, helped pour bags and bags of sand in an effort to stop the water from flooding in, and took pictures of the damages for our insurance claims. When that was done the other manager and I drove *back* to the store to finish the job we had started. When we walked out of the store at 8pm the sun was shining and the pavement was DRY..... as if the storm had never even happened. It was downright bizarre.... and HOT. Ugh, the humidity from the heat+rain was *stifling*.

Eventually I got home and finally got a chance to turn on the news and see the footage. Prior to that I only had the radio and smell of burning jet fuel to tell me what had happened. The wreckage looks awful though I am extremely proud that the airport handled the near disaster so well. I am astonished and thrilled that not one single person died... as close to a miracle as I have ever heard. They say the plane may have been hit by lightning... which will make the airport *very* jumpy over the next 2 days; the weather is to be more of the same until Friday.

In a moment of sarcasm (hey, I was tired, soaking wet and working a very long day) I turned to my co-worker and said: "Gosh golly! Toronto will be all over the news tonight, and for something other than gay marriage! Wowsers, I bet even CNN will be talking about it!!" (CNN is notorious for pretending that Canada doesn't much exist)

What. A. Day.