Writing In Public celebrates the art and intelligence of essays, online and in print.

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What it means to be an airport

What it means to be an airport

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Jesse Smith experiences an airport disaster drill and lives to reflect on it @ The Smart Set.
Thursday, June 9 was an active night at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as it was both Parmesan night at the airport’s Italian restaurant and the air disaster drill for the airport at large.The Arnold Palmer Regional Airport lies 40 miles west of Pittsburgh and more than 60 miles west of Pittsburgh International Airport in a small town of 8,338. From Pittsburgh International, travelers can make direct flights to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toronto, Cancun, and Paris. From Arnold Palmer, travelers can fly directly to either Fort Lauderdale or Myrtle Beach on Spirit Airlines, and only to either Fort Lauderdale or Myrtle Beach, and only on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday.I learned about the airport’s air disaster drill from a friend who traveled through Latrobe and saw a flier calling for volunteers to play air disaster victims. The flier was decorated with a clip-art illustration of an airplane. It said the airport was looking for 150 volunteers, and that they should wear clothing that could get dirty. My friend thought disaster drill training at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport would be right up my alley, and it was. Miniatures speak to many people: Some people like model railroads, some like dollhouses, some like baby animals. I like scaled-down versions of places you’re not used to seeing scaled-down. I’m drawn to tiny zoos, regional department stores, and restaurant chains with only three actual restaurants. These kinds of public institutions and commercial enterprises sit at the very bottom of hierarchies dominated by corporate and civic giants; but what sits at the bottom helps define what lies above. That Pittsburgh has an airport is such a forgone conclusion that the airport itself almost fades away as a place and becomes instead an interface between Pittsburgh and some other place. That Latrobe has an airport is so unexpected it makes you stop and think about what it means to be an airport.read more

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