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Juan saves holiday for Lund family during Hawaii trip

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POSTED December 30, 2009 1:57 a.m.
Santa’s last name is Hernandez.

When the departure time for the first leg of our journey to Hawaii flashed red and was moved back two hours, officially foiling our chances of making a connection, Juan Hernandez got on the horn. He punched keys, checked his watch and reorganized our itinerary.

There was mention of moving us to a flight on Southwest Airlines.

“So we have to go downstairs pick up our checked bags, walk to the other terminal, re-check them, get through security and catch the flight that leaves in 45 minutes?”

“Yes, the walk is 7 minutes.”

As ridiculous as this sounded to me, his response was confident.

Mom and I hustled downstairs and stood next to other passengers waiting for their bags 35 minutes to takeoff.

No chance.

A rush of air took our tickets and disappeared into the back room.

It was Juan.

He abandoned his post upstairs to continue to help, and reemerged from the back room with our bags and 30 minutes in his pocket to get us to the other flight.

“You walk, I will run,” he said as we started out the door to terminal A. We saw Juan running through the construction as mom and I power-walked, bags in tow, Christmas clinging like an ornament to a tree in a windstorm.

It took 7 minutes and 12 seconds to swap terminals, and at the edge of the Southwest line was Juan, waiving us down, sweaty, concerned, determined.

We stood and with each minute that passed, I was certain it was over.

“Christmas at the Kron’s,” I texted to a friend.

As if he knew I was losing hope, Juan defiantly asked for our identification and told mom to start making her way through security.

Juan motioned to me as a Southwest guy joined Operation Hawaii.

“You will go through the employee security and Chris will meet you on the other side.”

Employee security? Uh, sure.

Mom had made little progress in the real line, and was relieved, yet confused about our admittance to the VIP security. The guy checked ID, tickets and we ran everything, shoes included, through the x-ray machine.

We turned and waived to Juan, who nodded and waived back. Chris ushered us to the gate just in time for the scheduled departure.

Ho Ho Ho, off to Hawaii we go.

We toured Pearl Harbor, Ford Island and saw barracks at Hickam Air Force Base that still carried scars from the Day of Infamy so many years ago.

I had visited the USS Arizona on a previous trip, but seeing it from Ford Island, along with the bullet and shrapnel markings just below the windows of the Hickam buildings during that horrific transition from country at peace to at war, provided a battery of emotions.

That day is still relatively fresh in terms of the overall scope of time, and I can’t help but wonder if the current 17-22 year olds would be willing to put forth such a sacrifice, or if I would have been willing to lie about my age to sign on and charge up a bloody beach months after I gave a graduation speech.

Thankfully, that’s hypothetical because the Greatest Generation did it just that well.

No trip to the 50th state would be complete without the predictable trip to the beach and golf course. All I will say about the 18-hole round was that I followed my best drive (the only one that went straight) with a 5-iron that ended up closer to the taxi-way of Honolulu Airport than the green.

After a day of snorkeling and floating in the buoyant warmth of the ocean, my mom, brother, brother’s wife and her parents went to the North Shore to watch surfers turn to specks of pepper against the enormity of the waves forced skyward by the gradual ascent of the islands.

It was odd, but good; emotional yet soothing.

Once the wheels hit the runway a few miles north of true reality I felt good about the prospects of the new year that’s on final approach.

Not because 2009 was so horrible, but because I’m still standing.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.
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