The Last Flight Out


madison reiber

Madison Reiber
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Imagine being in another country when COVID-19 rocked the globe off of its axis. My parents, Ryan and Nancy Reiber, were two of the millions of people displaced while traveling when this pandemic dramatically increased its presence across the world. 

They were visiting my sister, Lindsay, and my brother-in-law, Peter, who live in London, England. They wanted to make a trip across the pond because both my sister and my father have their birthdays in March. 

My parents did not realize the magnitude of this disease, until it was right at our front door. Many people heard about this super strain happening in other countries but were not aware of how quickly it would spread, until the borders of countries eventually shut down.

My parents patiently waited it out, staying indoors within the city and trying to spend time with family as much as they could. They constantly watched as Donald Trump addressed the country on what regulations will be put into place. 

Their flight was to leave back from Heathrow airport in London to DIA in Denver on March 16, and they didn’t want to pay for an earlier flight if they could still fly out on their scheduled one.

Donald Trump addressed the nation and said that he was closing the U.S. borders March 22 at midnight. Thankfully, England is seven hours ahead time-wise, so my parents had a window. 

My family anxiously watched their flight number, waiting for it to change to ‘departed.’ They boarded the last flight back to the U.S. and made it safe and sound. 

Upon returning to Denver, there wasn’t any testing for COVID-19, which surprised my parents. 

“Heathrow was very busy,” said my father. “It went through your mind with all the people that social distancing was impossible. The planes were 90% full.”

Denver International Airport is the biggest airport in the United States, and it was reduced to a ghost town with no one inside except essential workers and the people returning home. 

After making it through customs my parents were able to return home to Alliance, Nebraska where they had to self-isolate for 14 days. 

“I saw the best of humanity,” my mother said. “Everyone was patient. No one was upset with delays or having to wait in lines. We were all fearful and just wanted to make it back to our families.”