For those of you who have never experienced a fire alarm in an airport, I can assure you it is no joke. Within seconds our corridor had been barricaded at one end, and a giant bottleneck of people began to fill up around us. Beyond the line of airport security, shops began to close their shutters, and behind us herds of people piled up, agitated, restless, and anxious to get through to the other side.
The sound of the alarm rang through the building like nothing I have ever experienced before. My ears ached from the drone and my mind immediately shifted to Sawyer, who was stood at my feet with his hands clasped tightly over the top of his ear defenders. “HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE???” he screamed, as he hopped from one foot to another, ricocheting off of walls, my legs, and nearby people. His eyes were tightly closed as he instinctively tried to shut off some of the senses that were clearly overwhelming him. Never before had his sensory problems been as prominent as they were in the minutes we spent trapped in that corridor. Sweat almost immediately started to saturate the back of his hair as he jumped around, trying desperately to counteract the sensory nightmare he found himself in. The amount of bodies in a small space made the air thick and hot, and the stark terminal lighting meant shadows chased around the hallway like ghosts. And having just been through security checks we had no water to offer him when he started to tear at his own throat.
Armed police pushed through the crowds from behind us and as Sawyer caught glimpse of the guns he immediately started to panic. Helpless, I apologised to those around us, and handed him croissant after croissant, praying that the familiar sensation of a pleasurable experience would somehow help to calm him down. And it did calm him down, if only for seconds at a time.
Eventually, thankfully, the siren stopped. Airport security waved us through and we raced to find my sister – the savior – who greeted the children with a massive smile, and an equally massive bottle of juice each. I suppose that after that experience, the airport seemed comparatively calm, and by that time we were almost ready to board. The holiday was about to begin.
British Airways made life as easy as they could for us, and I would recommend them to any family in a similar situation to ours. I had told them in advance that Sawyer has autism, and they added us to the priority boarding list, so we could limit the amount of time we spent hanging around the boarding gate. It worked incredibly well, and without that small gesture the whole airport experience would have been much more difficult. Once we boarded the aircraft it was fairly plane (snigger) sailing the whole way to Malaga. The contrast between taking Sawyer on a plane now compared to a few years ago is incredible, since these days, like any 7-year-old, he is just pleased to have an excuse to play computer games uninterrupted for a few hours. Before we knew it we had landed, and it was time for the real fun to begin. I wont pretend I wasn’t nervous to find out how Sawyer would cope with the heat and the unfamiliar surroundings, but I felt a massive sense of relief as we left the airport in our hire car. The bulk of the travel was over.
And paradise was waiting.