On Sunday, December 17, I was on my way to West Palm Beach, Florida for a work conference (SAS by Turning Point USA) my flights went from BNA > ATL > PBI. However, my flight never made it to PBI. I made it into ATL around 11am and my next flight was due to take off around 1:30pm. I was so excited to be able to work this conference so I was very anxious to head to Palm Beach. Next thing I knew, 15 minutes before boarding the lights went out, completely black. It was raining so many of us assumed that maybe the rain/storm knocked the power out and airport employees assured us that our flight would be on its way soon. Two hours passed… still no sign of regaining power and none of the employees had information on what was going on. There was hardly any cell service and people’s phones were dying due to the fact that we couldn’t charge our phones. Restaurants had shut down and there was no running water so going to the bathroom was a difficult task. I had been calling and texting my parents constantly to see if they had any updates since we didn’t have service. I received a call from my mother saying this was a huge breaking news story that the ATL airport was experiencing a blackout. Thankfully I was with a friend/co-worker so that eased my anxiety a little bit. 2 more hours passed and the sun starting setting and still no information on what was going on. Our flight kept getting pushed back every 30 minutes. Then the smoke emerged. There was an electrical fire in the basement that had caused the power outage and the fire had reached one of the trams.The fire alarms were going off for hours which drove all of us insane. As it started becoming pitch black outside it became eerier inside. Planes were lined up on the tarmac. Passengers were stuck in planes for over 9 hours. People were stuck inside of elevators for 9 hours. Pretty soon it was pitch black outside. The airport has no emergency lights, no food or water, and no heat. The employees eventually started handing out peanuts and pretzels from the airplanes. The only thing visible in the airport was the flashlights from peoples phones. I received a text from my mother saying my dad had gotten me a hotel and I needed to leave. I and my friend desperately wanted to stay in the airport to catch a flight as soon as possible but it wasn’t looking possible at all. We decided to go to the hotel. We were at the opposite side of the entrance so since the trams were not in service we had to walk 2 miles just to get out of the airport. This is when the chaos really happened. People were trying to navigate a dark airport. Handicapped people were being carried up escalators in their wheelchairs. As soon as we reached outside we knew we were in trouble. It was complete madness. You couldn’t even see what was in front of you because there were so many people. We had to take a specific bus to our hotel and we stood outside for over an hour waiting for a bus before we decided we were going to get on a bus, ride with it to its destination and then from there uber to our hotel. We arrived at our hotel baggage-less, cold, starving and scared at 9pm. My main concern was our baggage. Once we checked in we went downstairs to eat only to find out that it was a 2-hour wait. So we decided to go to target and get some essentials for the night and then order pizza. We got to bed around midnight but I was restless. I was so worried about how we were going to get to the conference and our luggage so the entire night I stayed up on Twitter to get updates on the airport. Thankfully one of our advisory board members was trapped in ATL too and was able to rent us a car for the next day. Just before midnight, the lights came back on in the airport but obviously they had lots to sort out. Then around 3:30am, they tweeted that the airport was open. So I woke my friend up at 4am to go to the airport to see if we could find information/retrieve our luggage. We found out that our luggage would be on the first flight to West Palm and we could retrieve it there. At 7am we headed to the rental car to drive 9 hours to West Palm Beach. We made it to West Palm around 5:30pm on December 18 and the conference was amazing the rest of the week.
Unfortunately I do not have any photos or videos of this experience because I stayed off my phone as much as possible to conserve battery, however, I will link some youtube videos/news stories below
by: Michelle Holton via Youtube
If you’re really into conspiracy theories, this next video by Studio News, is very interesting, highly recommend watching it! & there are a bunch of videos similar to this one on youtube!
This was easily one of the scariest experiences of my life. Officials have not ruled out terrorism. Do I think it was terrorism? Absolutely. The news stations were barely covering this story. It was hard to describe the chaos and madness that was happening inside of this airport that night but it was terrifying. 400 flights canceled and 30k+ people trapped in an airport with no information to what is going on. Will we ever truly know what happened? Probably not but after experiencing it, I 100% think it was terrorism. Although it was terrifying I’m glad I went through it. It was a great lesson. Being an adult is already hard but being an adult in a potential terrorist attack is 10x harder.