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With the bombings (and deaths and injuries) in London (search) yesterday, it seems a bit trivial to post the pictures I have on today's blog. I debated whether to post some of them — e.g. the monkey we fed every time we went to the Van der Sloots' home in Aruba (search). The pictures are the remainder from our most recent trip to Aruba to try and get information on Natalee Holloway's (search) disappearance. In trying to decide whether to post or not, I figured, well... some viewers will deem them fine and appropriate, some will understandably not. I see both viewpoints... and, to accommodate both, I have posted the pictures and figure that those who think they are inappropriate will simply not view them or click and close.
The pictures need some explanation. Our final full day in Aruba was on Wednesday. As was our routine, we went to the Van der Sloot (search) home to see if anyone there would talk to us. Since we were there, we fed the monkey in the cage in the neighbor's yard (the monkey's owners have not been around for weeks — we are told someone comes by daily to feed the monkey but we hate to stand there and hear him banging on the padlock to his cage like he wants out — fast — so we bring him food and feed him. He also makes a noise, which sounds like crying to us.)
After no luck at the Van der Sloot home, we went to the Kalpoe home. I have posted some pics of their home, their yard and Mrs. Kalpoe. We spent a good bit of time on her porch convincing her to introduce us to her Deepak (she finally did and we interviewed him.) Persistence is what you must have in this business.
Our next stop was the chief prosecutor's office (the pics posted.) We sat in the waiting room outside her office for about 90 minutes since she was not there and we had no appointment. We had tried for days to get her to make an appointment to talk to us but she would not. Thus we decided to surprise her. While sitting there for what seemed like five life times (and getting "bad vibes" from everyone in the office who passed us except a few), we took pictures. Two pictures show the security system over the door to the general office area. The system hardly looked secure — in fact it looked like I installed it myself (wires hanging all over and taped visibly.) Incidentally, in looking at these pictures you might say to yourself, "Greta really shows us the inside of these stories and what she sees" or "Greta has too much time on her hands.")
On Thursday, we got the call to return to the U.S. We grabbed the first flight we could — a 1:40 p.m. flight out of Aruba connecting through Miami. At the airport there was a long line (of course) and as I stood in the line to the counter an American came up to me and said, "Greta, are you flying today?" Of course I was polite and said "yes" although I do admit the response I considered — in good humor — was, "No, I am just practicing standing in line at the airport in case I want to fly soon."
Time was of the essence in getting back since we have a 10 p.m. show. When we got to Miami, we raced to a flight that was earlier than the one we were booked on. We had 11 minutes to get to it and we ran. We got there out of breath (my only real exercise in six weeks since we have been on the road) and discovered a 10-minute delay. What luck! Or so we thought... the plane had mechanical problems and the American Airlines flight kept getting pushed farther and farther back.
It soon became apparent that our originally planned flight would take off before the one with mechanical problems so we went to that one (of course it was at the other end of the airport.) We arrived as it was boarding and quickly boarded. When the departure time came and passed, the pilot got on the intercom and said, "We can't find the co-pilot." So we waited... and waited... and waited.
As time passed, we became increasingly worried we would not get to D.C. by 10 p.m. for the show. We madly began making phone calls to see if we could do the show out of the Miami bureau. The flight attendants and the pilot — all good sports — said they did not have any information about whether the flight with mechanical problems was an option. My producer took his boarding pass and got off the plane to find out himself.
Moments later I got a call on my cell phone from my producer. He told me the flight with the mechanical problems had taken off — so we missed that chance. He also said, "They won't let me back on the plane." I asked why and he said, "Security issues." I said, "But you are still in the security area — 15 feet from the jetway — and you have a boarding pass." I then asked the flight attendant and she said, "that's ridiculous" — but could not do anything about it.
I asked if she had an update on finding the co-pilot. She said, "Now the pilot is gone. He left to see if he could find the co-pilot." I later learned that there was no co-pilot... the one scheduled had never signed in. He was the phantom.
Of course while this was going on, there was much chatter among the passengers about the situation and they were wall curious whether we would make the show or not... and whether we should get off the plane and try and do the show in Miami. Meanwhile, our producers in New York City were scrambling to see if it were technically possible. A few passengers had overheard my conversation with my producer outside our plane and said, "Where is George? Is he going to get on?" I could only say, "I have no idea."
The calls among my producer George, the senior producer in New York and me were endless trying to figure out what to do... the clock was ticking. At this point, we had no pilot, no co-pilot and no George. Surprisingly we were all in good spirits. We were in such good spirits that I teased a few passengers around me — and they teased me — as the drama unfolded. You can meet these passengers... their pictures with their boarding passes are posted.
Here is my real point of telling you all this: In the midst of this drama, I learned something. The FAA has a real, real, real dumb rule. Here it is: On our flight, sitting behind me, was another American Airlines pilot/captain in uniform. His job is to fly (and captain) 757s — the plane we were on. Every day he takes charge of a 757 and carries hundreds of people to their destinations. He was willing to sit in the co-pilot's seat and ready to go. Why didn't he? The FAA will not, per this pilot, permit two pilots/captains to sit in the cockpit. It must be a pilot (a captain) and a co-pilot (a first officer.) All of us, including the captain/pilot rolled our eyes at this — imagine not permitting two captains/pilots to be in the cockpit to fly the plane. In other words, they prefer the less qualified situation in theory and won't permit the more qualified situation. Maybe there is a reason... but it sure seemed odd to us.
Time passed, they found another co-pilot from another flight and we took off and made it safely to D.C. The flight crew on this American flight was very nice and handled the situation very well — I do wonder about American Airlines top management. It is their job to make sure planes work and that they have pilots to fly them. Sure, problems can arise from time to time... but it is not rare that there are problems with flights anymore. I see so often that the top of big airlines get paid so well yet flight attendants, pilots, and mechanics have to fight to keep their pensions, their pay gets cut, they get laid off, etc. Maybe it is time to get some good management into these companies who can figure out how to effectively service their customers. And perhaps management should somehow peg their pay to customer satisfaction.
By the way, you might wonder how I got prepared for last night's show since I spent about 11 hours traveling... I had wires sent to me before I left Aruba and had wires e-mailed to me on my Blackberry. When I got to Miami, I turned on my Blackberry and quickly downloaded all the latest. Upon my arrival in D.C., I was met by my assistant who handed me more information — including our show rundown so that I could study the guests, and the order of the show. I devoured everything she gave me as we drove the 15 minutes to the bureau. During every break of the show I was trying to consume as much information as possible. I was so busy before and during the show that the time passed unbelievably fast.
Some random e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
Why don't you get over it? I am tired of Ms. Twitty blaming everyone for her loss. Someone from Alabama where the "O.J." of CEOs just was acquitted should not be criticizing some other country's law enforcement and court system.
E-mail No. 2
The Kalpoe brothers are criminals — at least by U.S. and U.K standards. They conspired to tell a prearranged lie to Aruban police in the course of an official investigation. That lie misdirected the investigation, wasted time and likely caused the loss of forensic evidence. That lie also implicated and caused the arrest of two ostensibly innocent men. Martha Stewart served prison time for less.
E-mail No. 3
Why aren't the citizens of Aruba upset and up in arms that a want-to-be judge, an official/employee of the judicial office and prosecutors (?) office, lied, helped his son and the Kalpoe brothers make up stories to mislead and cover up a crime. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what is happening. From the news reports apparently the bar Carlos 'n Charlie's there are drugs available and for a price the bar tender will drug the women's drinks with the date rape drug. Why don't any of the Arubans care about this? I would like to see you bring these points out and see what the fine citizens of Aruba, who apparently only care about the all mighty dollar and don't care about the actions of the Van der Sloots' (both of them) actions.
E-mail No. 4
Please let Beth know that many here in the States are praying for her and her family. In regards to her statement that the two brothers are criminals and the fact that Arubans are upset by that. Obviously if they lied to authorities, no matter what law is in place, they are criminals. I also understand that the two had plans to leave the island. They were flight risks, as Beth had stated. Apparently they decided to stay because they did not want to seem like they were fleeing. I feel deeply for the family of Natalee and pray daily that they may have all the strength they need to get through this and for her return.
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