A Tough Trip

After 24 hours I finally found how strong I am


Justine Rey with her host mom when she arrived in Fort Worth.

Justine Rey , reporter

Aug. 10.  

Emotions collided through me all at once. I was happy, sad, excited, nervous.  

Today was going to be a good day. 

That was different. 

I woke up ready to go. Not to school or work or out with friends. 

Today, I woke up ready to head to the airport. 

I was about to leave my family and my friends for 10 months. I was also going to meet my host family for the whole year.  

Four friends came to the airport with me to say goodbye. Two were surprises.  

Suddenly the excitement changed. Julie, my best friend, wasn’t there. She was on holidays in Spain. I was devastated because the last time I saw her, we argued. A silly argument for something that was not as important as our friendship.  

While I was waiting for my first plane, which was at 9 a.m., a feeling of solitude overtook me. I decided to call Julie. I apologized for our last argument, and she told me to not think about it. She said she had forgotten about it and that she would love to be by my side for my last moments in France.  

I didn’t have any problem getting to Charles de Gaulles Airport in Paris, but I still had two other planes. The longest flight from Paris to New York was supposed to leave at 2 p.m. so I had plenty of time to eat my lunch.  

We left Paris 45 minutes late so I started worrying about the connection for my last plane. I asked one steward if I was going to have my next flight. He said it was not a problem. I knew better. 

I didn’t sleep at all during the flight of nine hours because I was stressed about the next flight. I touched down at JFK at 5.15 p.m. 

And discovered a security line that appeared 10 kilometers long. A feeling of dread hit me. I felt sick. I’d been waiting so long already.  

I already knew that waiting in line would make me miss my plane. Flustered, I called my parents to ask what they would do, but they just told me to keep calm and ask an officer.  

By this time I had asked hundreds of people how I could get through the check faster. I tried to find someone who had a pass to escort me, but even when I found someone, I was still running late.  

I looked at my phone.  

15 minutes to get to the gate. Gate 33. 

I ran to the gate as fast as possible. I couldn’t breathe, I was hot, I was exhausted. At gate 31 I saw the door closing. I accelerated but too late. 

I missed my plane. 

Luckily, I met a nice woman who had also missed the flight. She was American but knew French. 

She helped me find another flight to get to Fort Worth. After hours of searching, we finally found another plane…the next day at 7 p.m. 

No big deal. I could just get a room at a hotel.  

But no. Delta Airlines decided something else for me. They decided I should wait. It was already 11 p.m. and I was still at the airport. I was exhausted, I hadn’t eaten, I’d been awake for over 24 hours and didn’t have enough battery to stay on my phone.  

Tired, I asked someone when I was leaving. Nobody answered. I understood: I was just going to stay the whole night and next day at the airport. 

I called my sister to help me. After shouting at the stewards, she finally told me that she had found another flight for me which was at another airport at 6 a.m. 

I needed to find a cab to get to the La Guardia airport, but the problem was the same: they didn’t let me leave. I was exhausted and I needed to do something if I didn’t want to fall sleep and miss my flight. 

Mad, I took my bag, left the airport anyway, took the first cab and got to La Guardia.  

It was 1 a.m. when the taxi dropped me off there. The door was closed, so I stayed outside in the cold. The fact of being exhausted didn’t help me to stay awake, but I didn’t want to sleep because being outside and not knowing what could happen to me and I knew that I wouldn’t wake up on time. 

But it happened. 

After one hour, someone woke me up to ask me why a 15 years old girl was laying on the ground, in front of an airport. When that person learned my story, she let me in. Thankfully, she worked at there. 

The night had been very long but I finally got to Fort Worth at 9 a.m. where my adorable host family was waiting for me. 

Since this experience, I know that I will never take two flights scheduled so close again. 

But the most important thing in that story was that I realized how much friendships and family are important for you mentally in hard moments when you need to make decisions and find solutions by yourself. Having them helped me stay strong and brave and keep my calm until I arrived at my destination.