How to Plan a Trip without Ending in a Travel Disaster

The 5 Worst Things That Could Happen During a Trip

What do you imagine when you read the word “travel”: Visiting famous monuments? Exploring new places? Capturing every moment with your camera? White beaches and turquoise water? Enjoying the days away from your busy schedule?

Usually, the word “travel” reminds us only of happy thoughts and memories. But travelling is not always pleasant and amazing as most people think it is. If you don’t plan your trip with caution you might end up in some of the worst travel disasters that could happen to a person.

There is no guarantee you will manage to avoid these accidents no matter how well you prepare for them. But it’s worth trying.

These are the 5 worst travel disasters along with tips for avoiding them when you plan a trip.

Note: the disasters are in descending order and number 1 is the worst that could happen to you during a trip.

#5 Lose Your Luggage or Passport

Lost luggage is one of the most common travel disasters. For some people it’s not even a disaster but a part of their busy everyday life. During 2013 nearly 22 million bags were lost, delayed or damaged. And when you think about these numbers it seems that we are all bound to lose our bags at least once in our lifetime.

So here is how to prepare for it:

  1. When you plan your trip and itinerary, you can print a copy of it and place it in your suitcase. So the airline company will manage to easily track you in case your luggage is delayed or lost.
  2. Always put a name tag on all of your bags with address and contact phone number.
  3. Place all of your valuable items in the carry-on luggage (money, documents, tickets, laptops, cameras, medicines, etc.) I would also recommend packing a change of clothes and a pair of underwear in your carry-on because sometimes it takes more than a day for the company to find and deliver the lost items.
  4. Try to be on time for the check-ins of your flights since the most common reason for lost luggage are late check-ins.If your bags get lost despite your efforts, you should immediately inform the airline. Give them your number and an address where they can send the luggage once found. And don’t worry, it usually doesn’t take more than a day to be reunited with your bags. The only bad thing is that your suitcase might visit a more interesting place than you do ☺

Losing your passport is quite worse than losing your luggage. That’s why you should always place your documents in your carry-on luggage. Before the trip make a digital copy of the passport’s front page and e-mail it to yourself. This will ensure you will always have access to all important information such as passport number, issue date and so on.

If you lose your passport, don’t panic. There is always a way out of such stressful situations. UK citizens can report a lost or stolen passport here: and issue an emergency travel document if needed. More details about the latter here:

#4 Rent a Hotel Room with Bed Bugs in It

Bed bugs are tiny insects which feed exclusively on blood. You may think of them as small vampires who like to hide in beds, mattresses and night stands. They crawl out during the night and enjoy the hot meal lying on the bed … sounds gross, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, it’s true and every year the number of bed bug infestations increases. Hotel and hostels rooms often become the perfect accommodation for these bugs and from there you can even bring them back to your home. And believe me, bed bugs can be pretty hard to get rid of and in most cases you have to call professional exterminators.

Here is what you can do to avoid this travel disaster:

  1. Use the bed bug registry to find the cities with most bed bugs. Check the bed bug activity for the place you are about to visit. If there is no information in the registry, try searching for a travel forum where people share their experience for your hotel/hostel.
  2. Before the trip, spray your suitcases with a bug repellent.
  3. Pack your clothes in plastic bags. Don’t take them out at the hotel before you make sure there are no signs of bed bugs.
  4. Once you enter the hotel or hostel room, put your bags in the bathroom since it’s the area least likely to be infested by bed bugs.
  5. Inspect the bed, mattress, sheets, pillows and night stands. Look for tiny brown spots (faecal stains or old blood stains) which indicate the presence of bed bugs. The insects themselves are brown, flat and around 4-5mm big. If you wonder what bed bugs look like, here is a picture to give you an idea:
An adult bed bug
This is what bed bug bites look like

6. Usually the signs of bed bugs are easy to see, but if the infestation has just begun, they might not be so obvious. When you wake up in the morning check your body for bed bug bites. They look like a red swollen rash.

If you have been bitten by bed bugs, then immediately change the hotel, not just the room. There is no guarantee the other rooms won’t be infested as well.

#3 Accidentally Hook up with a Ladyboy in Thailand

Thailand has become a very popular destination in recent years. The country is famous for its beautiful beaches and cheap prices, but that’s not all. Perhaps, you’ve heard the term “kathoey” or “ladyboy” which refers either to transgender woman or an effeminate gay male in Thailand.

Ladyboy in a Bangkok cabaret

Ladyboys are more visible and accepted in Thailand than any other country in the world. They usually work in female occupations including cabaret dancers and sex workers. Some kathoeys have undergone so many feminising procedures that it’s impossible to tell the person is male. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the photos from the latest beauty pageant for ladyboys in Thailand.

So, how to avoid accidentally hooking up with a kathoey in Thailand:

  1. Look for an Adam’s apple. As you know — girls don’t have one!
  2. Compare the height. Thai girls are generally short so if your new friend is quite taller than the others, the chances of her being a ladyboy are also quite high.
  3. Take a look at her hands and feet. The above rule also applies here.
  4. Listen to her voice. Most ladyboys talk slowly and softly in order to cover up their deeper voices.
  5. Take a look at her friends too. Kathoeys usually go out in groups, so if any of her friends looks like a ladyboy, then she might as well be one.

Hopefully, you will read these tips while planning your trip to Thailand, not afterwards ☺

#2 Witness a Natural Disaster

Unless you are a fan of disaster tourism and like to visit damaged or completely destroyed areas, then you probably won’t have the ambition to witness a natural disaster. Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to avoid such a calamity. Most natural disasters strike suddenly and there is no way people can prevent them from happening.

House turned upside-down by the force of tsunami

However, you can at least gather some useful information about the place you want to visit and plan your trip accordingly:

  1. Check the weather forecast and search for weather reports which can give you some insights on the local climate.
  2. Avoid areas with potential threat of hurricanes or storms.
  3. See if the place of your interest is located nearby an earthquake, flood or volcano zone.
  4. Search for local old news which cover previous natural disasters to see how the local authorities dealt with the problem.
  5. Cross your fingers and pray that nothing bad will happen during your trip ☺

When it comes to natural catastrophes, our hands are tied down. Unless you are one of the people featured in National Geographic’s show Doomsday Preppers” who are ready to deal with any type of natural and unnatural disasters.

#1 Be Kidnapped

If you have seen the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson, then you’ll now precisely what I have in mind. In the movie two girls go to Paris, meet a cute stranger at the airport, share a taxi with him and then he sends his crew to kidnap the girls and make them prostitutes. Luckily, the father of one of the girls is a retired CIA agents, so he travels to Europe, kicks some ass and manages to save his daughter.

But what do you do if your father is not an ex secret agent?

  1. I may sound like your mom when I say this but don’t trust strangers so easily.
  2. Research the area you want to visit. Find information about the crime rates and previous cases of kidnapping (hopefully, there will be none).
  3. If you travel alone, make sure there is always someone who knows your whereabouts.
  4. Always have your mobile phone with you and set the speed dial buttons.
  5. Don’t consume too much alcohol on your own because it may affect your judgement and alertness.
  6. It’s always an advantage to know the basics of a martial art for self defence.

Not that I want to scare you too much, but nobody is safe. So when you plan your trip have these tips in mind.

I hope that after reading this article, you will still have passion for travelling. It’s always good to be prepared for any type of situations and know how to deal with travel disasters.

So enjoy your trip and travel safe!

Next Story — Getting Rid of Fleas Naturally
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Getting Rid of Fleas Naturally

Pet-friendly ways for flea removal

For all the great moments and warmth our pets bring into our homes, they certainly bring in plenty of challenges, too. One of the great and ever-present woes of the pet owner is fleas which, much like dirty paw prints, always manage to find their way into your sitting room eventually. There is a correspondingly wide range of treatments available, from sprays and collars to shampoos — but these can often be quite toxic and there are a lot of pet owners out there who would prefer to treat their pets’ fleas naturally if at all possible. The good news: it’s not difficult.

With a bit of patience, you can rid your pet and your home completely using a variety of natural products you can find in the shops or, sometimes, in the back garden. Before you start, of course, there’s an easy way to make life harder for fleas in your home, and that’s to give it a thorough clean. Wash all your pet bedding and if you’ve got a tumble dryer, twenty minutes or so in there should kill any fleas just as effectively as any pest controllers, as well as their larvae and eggs. Vacuuming your furniture and carpets helps, but there’s a trick: sprinkle salt, baking soda or borax beforehand and, after a few hours, vacuum it all up again. This will dry out eggs, helping you to completely de-flea these areas.

Dehumidifying your house is another completely toxin-free way to kill fleas. The parasites need a relative humidity of around 50% or more to thrive, so keeping your home’s humidity below that for a sustained period — two or more days — should kill any fleas and their eggs. If you go down this route, you’ll get the best results by leaving vacuuming until afterwards.

Of course, all of this can fight back an invasion of your home, but your poor pet will still be scratching away out in the garden. There are a few natural ways to treat pets for fleas — one of the best is to use rosemary. That’s right — this rich herb can do wonders for a lamb stew, but bunches of it make great pest controllers as well. If you’ve got a hot day ahead, try boiling a few cups worth of rosemary for half an hour in two pints of water will give you a good concentrate which you can thin out to a gallon with warm water. Pouring this over your pet until s/he is completely soaked might cause some angry protesting, but it works. Allow to dry naturally rather than air-blowing.

One other method worthy of mention is the mighty lemon. This is a fruit you can use for almost everything, from cleaning to cooking to mixing drinks, and it can help you to keep your pet flea-free as well. Mixing one part lemon juice to one part water gives you an effective spray which you can use up to once a day to disinfect your pet — don’t overuse it, and start off slowly at first, and this can be a mighty weapon in the fight against fleas.

You can find further information on this topic here: 11 Methods For Pet-Friendly Flea Removal

Next Story — The Apple-Google shift
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The Apple-Google shift

In the last couple of years, two very distinct things have happened — or, to be more precise, been happening — in the world of consumer tech, in my opinion. A shift has occurred: Apple, once the definition of innovation, has become stale, content to rest on its laurels; while Google, once ugly and disparate, has continually pushed forward with new and better products that are a delight to use.

The result is two-fold: firstly, from a software perspective, Google-authored apps have all but replaced Apple’s defaults on my iPhone; secondly, for the first time ever, I find myself potentially choosing a Google phone over an Apple phone — a choice that represents not just a one-off hardware purchasing decision, but a first tentative step outside of Apple’s ecosystem and, as a result, a break in unashamed Apple fanboy-ism.

Okay, so I’m considering a switch to Android. No big deal. I’m following in the footsteps of many, many, many others. But what I find interesting outside of my own personal decision is that there seems to be a growing discontent with Apple — especially amongst former so-called fanboys/girls — and, at the same time, a growing appreciation of what Google have been doing, especially from a design perspective. In many ways it’s unwise to compare these two companies alone, but few would disagree that these days they’re the two sides of one coin.

So I thought I’d try and pick this apart. What’s actually changed?

It’s not that Apple no longer creates great products, but there’s just not that spark there anymore, is there? Remember when a new MacBook or iMac would launch? Or the iPhone? Or pretty much any new product? The buzz was palpable; the hype almost always justified. For years and years, Apple constantly innovated, whether it was with entirely new product lines or updates to existing ones, but recently everything has just felt a little… well, meh, hasn’t it?

Could this feeling because Apple is now so ubiquitous, no longer the underdog? Possibly. And could this be down to some very shrewd business decisions, with Apple deciding to refine and hone rather than experiment, as evidenced by the longer life cycles of designs for their phones and computers? Very likely.

But that doesn’t excuse recent product launches that have (again, in my opinion) fallen flat by their past standards. The MacBook? Well, it’s a lovely little machine (and I’m typing on it right now) and I even took a whole set of photos to capture its beautiful form, but time has revealed it to be irritating in many ways (the keys repeatedly get stuck, for instance, and the removal of a magnetic power connector is genuinely irritating). The Apple Watch? After the initial magic wore off, I came to the conclusion that it’s essentially useless — as did almost every other Apple Watch owner I’ve spoken to. The new Apple TV? A total lack of innovation — both from its previous version and the numerous offerings from competitors. New iPhones aren’t even exciting anymore.

In many ways, I wonder if this all started with the launch of iOS 7: although I was originally one of its supporters when it came out and enraged half the Apple-buying world, when I think about it these days, iOS still doesn’t really encourage interaction. It’s not about flat design versus skeuomorphic design; it’s more about how Apple laid the groundwork for what a great, minimal, mobile operating system could be… and then never really built upon those foundations. The same could be said of their camera technology. The iPhone camera’s noise reduction algorithm has ruined many a photo that would have benefitted from not being put through a paint-like Photoshop filter. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Apple Music. What a mess. Sure, it’s not a total failure from an interaction design point of view, but it’s a sub-par effort from a company that should really be far, far, far better than any other steaming music competitors. That Apple Music has been so successful is only down to the ecosystem they’ve cultivated — not because it offers a superior experience.

Then there’s just all the douche moves Apple has made again and again with proprietary connections — their decision to remove the headphone jack on the forthcoming new iPhone being the latest. All of this has added up to make even this most ardent of Apple fanboys start to question his allegiances.

And all the while this has been going on, Google — which, with each new product launch, whether software or hardware, has become even more of an Apple competitor — has continued to innovate; to make better versions of Apple’s own apps. (I don’t even need to mention Maps, do I? No? Good.) And from a design perspective, Google has well and truly grown up: Material Design offered a lot of promise when it was first announced, and in the time that’s passed since, it’s proven itself to be a strong framework for unifying a the company’s multiple software offerings. Sure, there are times when its incarnation feels a little templated and dry — Google Play Music, for example — and perhaps it’s easy to praise Google for their grown-up new looks when, until recent times, Google web apps were so damn ugly. (Remember how Gmail used to look? For a reminder of that less graceful era, look at the browser version of Google Calendar.) But the difficulty of creating a system that works in so many instances, both in terms of aesthetics and interaction, should not be underestimated.

Beneath all of these apps and interactions and aesthetics, there’s another layer of Google that has become so trusted: its infrastructure. Yes, I get the fears about our data being mined to show us more relevant ads, but who do I trust for reliable cloud syncing: Apple or Google? Who do I trust to backup and share my photo library: Apple or Google? Whose infrastructure do I trust for my emails, documents, calendars, and more: Apple or Google? Granted, the latter could be any service provider vs. Google, but the point is that Google’s infrastructure underpins so much of the internet and our daily lives, it often just doesn’t make sense to let someone else handle what we know Google can handle so well.

(At this point, i’m going to refrain from delving into lengthy praises of particular Google apps and services, but I do want to give a quick mention to the Google Calendar and Google Photos iOS apps. They’re so radically superior to Apple’s equivalents, I’d question anyone’s need to ever open those defaults again.)

All this is to say: if Google can be this good on a competitor’s operating system, how much better can it be in its own environment? This is the question that’s been gaining traction in my head recently.

Android used to be a poor man’s iOS, but it’s obviously grown a lot since then. Unfortunately, fragmentation is a problem that’s plagued Android from the very beginning and is probably the primary factor that’s never allowed me to take switching seriously, but here’s where it gets interesting: with Google making (via OEMs) its own Nexus hardware, it’s possible to use a vanilla version of Android, free of bloat from carrier-installed software. It also removes that weird you-can-only-use-this-particlar-version-of-Android thing that plagues Android phones made by other manufacturers, and, in doing so, puts Google on an evening playing field with Apple: control the hardware and you control the software.It just works.

So it’s this vision of Android — a Google phone in its purest form — that’s making me, and others, consider the switch. And with new Nexus phones rumoured to land (or at least be announced) very soon, the opportunity to do so might be just around the corner.

Or maybe not. The new iPhone is also due very soon. Maybe it’ll be amazing. Maybe it’ll be the best hardware and software combination that exists in the world. Maybe Apple’s core apps, services, and experiences that underpin the entire iOS / macOS / tvOS ecosystem will up their respective games and I’ll look back on this post as blasphemy.

But — sadly — I’m not sure that’s something the Apple of 2016 is capable of.

Next Story — The State Of JavaScript: Front-End Frameworks
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The State Of JavaScript: Front-End Frameworks

A few preliminary results

I’ve been very impressed with the success of my State Of JavaScript survey so far. After barely three days, the survey already has over 3000 responses. So I thought it’d be interesting to see what preliminary insights we can extract from that data.

I say “preliminary” because I‘m hoping a lot more developers end up filling out the survey. Not so much to get a bigger-sized sample, but to get a more representative one. After all, these kind of survey tend to reach a population of early adopters first, and that can easily skew the results.

Incidentally, this is also why I didn’t try to advertise the survey to Discover Meteor readers. If I had, Meteor might very well ended up as number one in all categories!

So with this in mind, let’s see what the data tells us!

The Contenders

In this first look, we’ll focus on front-end frameworks. The six choices were:

Obviously this list is not complete, but I decided from the start to try and keep the survey’s length down even at the cost of being less exhaustive.

I did also provide an “other” option asking people to provide any additional frameworks I might’ve missed (more on that later).

For each framework, people could pick one of the following answers:

  • I’ve never heard of it
  • I’ve heard of it, and would like to learn it
  • I’ve heard of it, and am not interested
  • I’ve used it before, and would use it again
  • I’ve used it before, and would not use it again


The first thing I wanted to figure out was how many people were aware of their various options. I’m sure (almost) everybody had heard about React and Angular, but what about Vue and Ember?

No need for a complex chart here, awareness was above 97% for every option except Vue, which had “only” 77%.

It will be interesting to see if these results change as more people take the survey, but for now at least it seems clear that apart from newcomer Vue, front-end frameworks don’t really suffer from lack of awareness.


The second thing I wanted to figure out was what image people had of the frameworks they didn’t use: which one did they want to learn, and which ones failed to generate interest?

As expected, React takes the lead. It certainly seems like everybody and their dog wants to learn React these days (on that subject I recommend the excellent React for Beginners class, and you can get $10 off with coupon code METEOR).

The surprise for me was Vue. Not as many people might’ve heard about it, but those who have must’ve heard good things, because it’s even more popular than Angular 2.

And speaking of Angular, few people want to learn version one anymore. But I didn’t expect Ember’s percentage to be equally low. Maybe a sign that the trend is going towards lighter-weight, single-purpose libraries?


Finally, I wanted to know how happy people were with the frameworks they had used.

This would seem to confirm that React and Vue are not all hype: they genuinely provide good developer experiences.

You’ll notice I didn’t ask how many people were actually using each framework. Part of it is because I wanted to cut down the survey’s length, but it’s also because I’m not sure how useful raw usage stats would be.

For example, I’m willing to bet Angular’s market share is still huge, but would that be reason enough to pick it for your next project, especially knowing that 56% of Angular developers wouldn’t want to use it again?

Other Frameworks

Like I said, my list of frameworks wasn’t intended to be exhaustive, and I was curious to see which other frameworks people would suggest.

As you can see, many people mentioned Aurelia, which took me by surprise as I know very little about it.

Quite a few people also mentioned either Meteor (or Blaze, Meteor’s built-in front-end framework), which I had left out of the front-end section since it was already included in the “Full Stack” part of the survey.

Knockout seems to still be relatively popular despite its age, as is Cycle, which I’m also pretty unfamiliar with. And I seem to remember Polymer getting a lot of hype when it came out, but it was mentioned fairly rarely.

Other observations: the Riot people generally seemed pretty positive about it (“Riot.js — Absolutely will use it again”), and Mithril’s complex spelling might be the reason it’s not higher up in the rankings.

Also there’s apparently a thing called Choo now? Protip: if you want to anticipate 2030’s hottest baby name trends, look at JavaScript frameworks!


My main goal with this survey was to make it easier for developers to decide which frameworks to learn and use.

Based on the current data, I think it’s safe to say that you can’t really go wrong with React, since it’s extremely widespread and has an above-90% satisfaction percentage. And although currently much smaller, Vue also seems like a good bet.

Finally, these results only represent a tiny fraction of the data I accumulated, so stay tuned for more observations and insights coming very soon!

Help Spread the Word

As I said, the more developers take the survey, the better the data will be.

So please help spread the word if you can by sharing, emailing, or retweeting. It’ll be worth it!

Next Story — Terrorizing Ourselves?
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Terrorizing Ourselves?

I was in Terminal 1 at JFK, and scared at how easily we terrorized ourselves

Imagine receiving a text like this:

The Experience

I was traveling to Malmö, Sweden to give a talk at a conference on “Building an Empathetic Company” by way of Norwegian Air via Copenhagen. It was a red-eye flight scheduled to leave at 9:55 PM.

Since it was the first time I had flown Norwegian and I couldn’t check-in online, I left for the airport with plenty of time. At 7:30 PM on a Sunday night, Terminal 1 was busy but not hectic. Norwegian had a long line and a shorter one for passengers with no bags to check. I had a duffel, so I went to the short line, got my ticket, and made it through Security quickly.

I stopped at a restaurant in-between Gate 4 and Gate 6, had dinner, and read. When 9:15 came around, I paid my bill and walked to Gate 7 to board my flight. The crowd loitered, waiting for instructions, until the gate agents announced the flight would be delayed an hour. So I walked around looking for a seat that didn’t feel claustrophobic.

I’m telling you this, because where I ended up sitting made a difference.

I chose a seat to the far left of the terminal in the last aisle of Gate 8 where there was nothing but open space and a food stand. I figured I should do something productive, and started to write out goals for the upcoming week to share with my team. I was immersed thinking about the week ahead when a piercing alarm filled the terminal.

Lights above the terminal gates started blinking a long pronounced floodlight warning, and lights on the ceiling darted in a hurried blue and white whir. I realized the alarms had been going off as I typed and that they had gotten louder, or it wasn’t until others around me began to notice and react, that their message reached me.

People started to scream.

“What is happening?” I asked myself.

I watched as people darted through the terminal towards me. I put my carry-on on my back and grabbed my duffel with my free hand. Phone in the other, I tried to open the camera app as I backed up against the window a few seats away.

The screaming became deeper, and echoed through the terminal.

I remembered thinking, “Men are screaming too” as I managed to swipe to video, bent down behind a row of seats and began to film.

I did this for exactly 16 seconds, before I realized something was wrong. Very wrong.

Still from the video I shot. You can see the full one on Twitter @MsSapone

The video shows dozens running for the emergency exits. What it does not capture is the scale of what happened next.

I think so few videos were shared from that night, because people were too afraid to even think about filming

As I dropped my phone, a stream of people came at breakneck speed through the terminal.

There was another wave of piercing screams and the echo of people running.

It was a stampede of people. It was like the terminal had been lifted vertically and people were falling like checkers on a Connect Four board, slamming into a pile at the exits.

I let my duffel fall and surveyed the room. I could cross 100 feet to a door where people were crowding, or another 200 feet to either corner of the terminal where dozens more were pushing their way out.

It registered that the last two exits at the end of the terminal were better. They had bigger doors.

Another wave of screams filled the terminal. I dropped to my stomach and slid underneath the aisle of seats. To my right, many people were doing the same. To my left, I watched as a woman hid behind a waste bin. She was bigger than the square recycle/trash canister, and as she banged herself into it, it skid and reverberated.

It was the same reaction a caged animal has when a trap slams down. It wants to get out. Every cell in its body moves at an incredible speed to fulfill this desire. It cannot feel pain as it hits against metal.

I looked down at my own hands. My right hand gripped my phone and my left was shaking. “Was I afraid?” I asked myself.

Interrupting this thought a sound filled the terminal.



Or was it clapping for Usain Bolt’s gold-medal victory?

Or was it the sound of line separators that direct traffic at Security, falling in cacophonous succession (all the way back before the gates began)?

Or maybe the sound of joints exploding off a door?

None of these media-suggested alternatives occurred to me.

It was gunfire. To me. To many others.

My brain searched furiously for an explanation. “Where is Security? Where the F#&*! is everyone?” Lying flat on the ground under the seats, I locked eyes with a Filipino man and his young daughter. His eyes were bulging and he uttered one statement on repeat.

“Oh God. Oh God. Oh God,” as he pulled his screaming daughter beneath him.

I looked at his daughter and whispered, “Shhhh… It’s Ok…Shhhh.”

A cacophonous scream erupted in the terminal moments after the shots fired. I looked with others out onto the empty aisle of the Terminal.

We were waiting for the person that had fired to emerge, a group of people even. To make demands, or maybe no demands at all. Maybe just make a point.

People have asked me what it felt like. I think this is the first time I understood what the word “terror” means to so many people who have really experienced it.

Yes it was scary, but that’s not good enough. Imagine being in the desert and a wild animal is chasing you, hell-bent on ripping every limb off. It’s that, and the realization that this animal is not acting on basic predatory instincts. This animal is a human, and it wants to hurt you.

It’s a deeper level of fear because your mind can not comprehend it. It is in complete disbelief. A state of terror.

Your mind goes to 9/11, Orlando, Columbine, what your Military buddy must have felt in Afghanistan. In the moment, you reference these other events.

No security came. No announcement. Just chaos. I had no doubt at the time that in that moment, my life was in my own hands.

Quiet overcame the terminal for a moment. I became aware of the feeling of my stomach against the ground. I surveyed the three exits again and not consciously, but with my feet, made the decision to run for the far right doors. I ran across dropped food; a giant soda cup; ice avalanched; Coke all over the floor. There were hundreds of things everywhere, computers, bags, shoes, jackets. Things were still spinning from the wave of people that had just kicked their way out.

Why did I run? There was an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. There was a window of opportunity, and since I could not see the perpetrator, there was still ambiguity on the outcome, and maybe the opportunity to escape. We were in danger. I felt like a deer bounding across an open field, hoping the hunter was looking the other way.

I ran 150 feet, did a running jump over a row of chairs and ran other 20 feet through open doors.

I ran with others into a wide, cement stairwell. A pilot and two flight attendants crowded in the corner, staring at the running crowd in nonplussed, confusion. They grabbed their wheelie bags close, seemingly unsure what to do as people whizzed by them.

“Go down the stairs!” my brain told me.

I watched a man help another man hop down the stairs, limping and jumping down the steps as if he had sprained a ankle.

Their faces communicated fear, “We are not moving fast enough.” The exit stairwell was wide and people rushed down, toppling, getting up again and running.

Now one floor down, I had a choice. “Get out on this level? Get out here? No. Keep going. Get outside.”

I ran through the doors out onto the airport runway into a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of people. People around me darted across the tarmac. Hundreds of people huddled along the terminal walls as planes landed. I looked around for Security. “What are we doing? What is going on?”.

More people raced onto the tarmac from behind me. I watched people hide in luggage trolleys, under cars, by the wheels of planes. Most of us kept moving, some with rolling bags, many with nothing. Shoes were missing. People were running in torn tights. We made our way in fast procession to the farthest corner of the tarmac near what would have been Gate 1.

The crowd seemed to be asking the same thing, “Are we safe?”.

There were men in yellow, reflective vests who were unsure what to do — “Stay right, keep moving” — one said quietly.

Near the Arrivals door under Gate 1, Port Authority police screamed into their walkie talkies. They gestured for us to wait. I turned my face to my phone and opened Twitter. I had bad reception, but I tried to share an update.

Then the quiet. People crowded. One man near me opened a pack of cigarettes and lit one. People around him jumped at the sight of flame. I took a picture. We waited. Then the cops announced, “Ok, out these doors”.

A crowd waits on the tarmac outside Arrivals in Terminal 1

The crowd started to move forward slowly. It didn’t feel safe yet.

Security had expressly not said, “Everything is under control”. They didn’t know. And this was being communicated in what they said, and what they hadn’t. Letting children and their parent’s go first, I stood next to the man smoking a cigarette; he dropped it to the ground, darted forward, and ran to the top of the line.

Without warning, screaming erupted, and the crowd that was exiting peacefully into the airport, exploded. There was a quick shoving match between a frantic outgoing crowd and the ingoing procession and then instantly, everyone changed direction.

OUT!” People stampeded out the doors, terror on their faces. A woman fell, her knee gushed open. The crowd dispersed along the sides of the tarmac.

Security ran too.

I hid behind the back of a van in the corner. Others huddled around me. A few minutes passed. Crowds started to descend from planes 500 feet away. They were standing and sitting in orderly squares. Slowly, people started to stand up near me as two security guards emerged and told us — once again — to make a line to leave the asphalt tarmac to the ground floor of the Terminal into Arrivals and Customs.

A woman from Sweden with her son, asked the police — “How do you know it’s safe?”. She had just watched people stream out in terror.

Still behind a large Homeland Security van, I stood on the bumper to watch what was happening. People started to file into the terminal.

“Ok. I can go too.” I thought. I jumped off the bumper to the right of the van and began to make my way to the door when screaming erupted and for a second time, dozens came running out the door stampeding into the exiting crowd. I hit the floor again, and shuffled under the van.

Others would ask me why I choose to go under the van. “Was it smart? What if a cop suspected me?”All I can say is in that moment, I had watched people run for their lives in five separate waves.

There was no feeling of calm, or evacuation.

This wasn’t a fire drill.

I remember looking down and watching a large ant walk past me. I stretched my feet and lay them flat on the ground, pressed my hands against the gravel like a pose in yoga, ready to push out from under the car. It still wasn’t safe — people ran around me. It got quiet again, and I sent texts to several people including a friend who was a Navy Seal inside the terminal, who would later be quoted in the the New York Times as saying:

“I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’ve never been in this situation where you’re in a massive crowd and there’s nothing you can do.” -NYT

and in his own blog he wrote:

I was confident that I was in charge of my own destiny at this point. -SOFREP

Many minutes later, a cop flashed a light under the car and asked me to come out. I obliged, and sat on the curb with others.

I went to Twitter to look for any answers on what was happening. No statement issued seemed to reflect what I was experiencing. Twitter trolls were out and active.

It surprised me that as I was currently still experiencing what was happening at JFK, people continued to tweet at me that “there was was no event”. Another twenty minutes went by before we walked through the doors of Arrivals. Baggage Claim and Customs where mobbed.

Who knows how many people went through Customs without showing their passports? Passengers would later recount watching a stream of people, at least 40 people, running through Customs to the curb of Arrivals. This is significant, but not reported.

Bags and shoes were scattered throughout Baggage Claim. People started to line up again, but there was no real order, or clear direction. One guard asked me what flight I was on and led me to the front of the line at Customs. The white-faced security guard asked my name. He typed on his computer, seemed to look at a manifest, and waved me through, not making eye contact.

Inside the terminal

It seemed like we were free to leave. The Navy Seal texted me that he was already home in the city. My bag was still in the terminal, and passengers whispered to each other that flights were still leaving. Eventually a guard asked us to stand in line to go through Security.

Terminal 1 TSA stared the crowd down. They spoke amongst themselves, and cracked a joke or two to release the tension. They tried to ignore passengers asking them what was happening. An airport security guard or gate agent told us to form a line. I waited in one line or another for four hours, waiting to retrieve my bag from the terminal. I would get home from the airport at 5 AM.

Exhausted. Adrenaline. Waiting in those lines, I watched Twitter and the media form a perception of what had happened.

There was no mention of Terminal 1 — as if everything you just read was a figment of my imagination. Passengers were exhausted. I think most people were too in shock to exchange experiences. The terminal was very, very quiet.

Many of the media reports that night and in the following days used the word hysteria. I would describe the feeling differently.It was a feeling that did not end until 11:48PM for me. More than 90 minutes after this all began. Internalize that.

For 1 hour and 30 minutes, I and others in this major American airport, in 2016, were in a true state of terror.

Did We Terrorize Ourselves?

If you saw the news, the headlines and message communicated “no big deal, move along”. That was not my experience. It was a big deal to me and hundreds of fellow passengers at JFK that night.

I shared my experience because I think it’s important to put it out there. It should make people uncomfortable.

And not because it was scary, but because it’s scary how much of a discrepancy it is to what was officially reported.

At the end of the day, I went home and then got on my flight the next day — exhausted and a little shaken — but just 24 hours later, I was back to living my life.

We live in one of the greatest, safest places that’s ever been and it’s our responsibility to uphold that greatness and safety.

We do that by demanding better journalism — real stories. Reading long form. Opting out of pablum, and listicles, and puffery on blog sites. The cursory reporting that came out on this event simply wasn’t good enough, and people didn’t ask enough questions before playing Monday morning quarterback on the social sphere.

We are our own editors these days and if we only read “How to Launch a Startup in 3 Easy Steps” we start to lack empathy for the world as it really is.

In fact, I believe our reactive behaviors on social media — drowning ourselves in opinions, knee-jerk reactions, insults, and trolling even by would-be-presidents — are eroding our safety more than any single bad actor can.

We can’t let feelings, unsubstantiated by true facts, grow into into a toxic force that pulls the fabric of our society

We must learn together. We have to set a higher bar for ourselves and our institutions.

We can’t let fear stop clear and transparent communication from authorities to the public. Suppressing, downplaying, or avoiding isn’t the safe or smart move. We can be thoughtful and positive. I do not expect our institutions to be perfect, but we need to learn. Let’s make a plan to fix the clear failure in the response.

The media should not let the story fade away.

How is it possible that with so many people in the airport, no account like this has been shared outside of the New York Magazine piece?

Reporting is a noble job — I hope it continues to attract great people to take on the challenge.

Finally we have to be better humans, please.

Get off the junk food diet of cursory reporting, PR masked as news, and non fact-checked opinion threads. The people that control the news, control perception. In many ways we are more in control than we’ve ever been. The papers of yesterday may not be able to afford deep reporting, so we need to do it ourselves and demand better with our attention and wallets.

There is a raw, exposed nerve in the public from the divisiveness of our discourse. America is great, when it acts greatly.

And to take it full circle. We all need to practice a hell of a lot more empathy for others and ourselves.

We have to be active in our society. We have to vote. To stand up for what is right. Next time it could be life and death — as it easily could have been this time.

If we don’t learn from this experience, we have in fact terrorized ourselves.

You can find me on twitter @MsSapone

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