Bedraggled Hordes



The airliner dipped and turned, giving us new views of the metropolis, sometimes from above the sleepy comforts of suburbia, sometimes the blank concrete blocks of factories and warehouses. Finally, we drifted laboriously over the tip of the island and caught columns of speckled light in pale blue and chalky white where thousands had left desk lamps and fluorescent ceiling panels lit through the night in the World Trade Center towers. The Kuwaiti jetliner touched down with a reassuring thump to the collective relief of the hundreds crammed into its shuddering cabin. The splash of the spittle and pistachio shells against the bulkheads was followed by the jarring rattle of every panel, seatback and floorboard as the thundering juggernaught fought the laws of physics and threw every wing flap in the face of the onrushing winter air. And then there was peace.

The feeble hiss of an air conditioner, the scrunch of plastic and tinfoil in a rubbish cart, an occasional cough or mutter; these were the sounds of an aircraft full of people who have finally come back to ground half a world away from the place where they last breathed fresh exhaust, tasted chips, sidestepped a pigeon


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