We were stationed in Norfolk, Virgina and Bill and I lived in base housing on Little Creek Amphibious Base.
Daniel was due to arrive at the Philadelphia airport at 6pm on April 28th 1990. We decided to make a sweet day of it, leave early, take a leisurely drive, stop at little restaurants and antique shops, then head into Philly and check into our hotel.
What's the quote? The best laid plans of mice and men...oye. We left bright and early with our station wagon filled to the brim with helium balloons. A huge red heart that said "We Love You!", a few other cute ones to make a little boy smile and lots of regular, colorful balloons. It was quite a bouquet! (This will come into play later on!) We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, planning to find a spot for breakfast. Ah breakfast. That would have been so nice. Instead we were hit, broadside, at the first stop light we came to. The driver ran the light & hit us with such force that our car began spinning and came to rest, across the street, landing in the front yard of a car parts store. It took us a few second to regain our composure and as we got out the people in the parts store were running to our aid. "Are you both okay? Do you need an ambulance? We already called the sheriff's department!" Just then we all realized that the driver had sped off, not checking to see if we were alright. Ah, but the joke was on her! There, embedded in in the side of our Volvo, was her license plate. Ha! Take that lady! They can run those plates! The deputy arrived and made sure we were okay. He was writing up the report when we see a familiar car come into view. She had come back, hoping we were long gone I am sure, to look for her license plate. "Officer! There she is!" I shouted. He turned and said, "Oh that's Belinda! I know her and her Granny well!" Dear Belinda knew she had been spotted so she drove over to where we all stood. Sweet Granny bailed out and began screaming at us! "Arrest them Stevie! They hit my girl and took off! I want them arrested!" Um yeah. I think she would have beaten us with her cane if old Stevie hadn't been there. The parts store folks began yelling at her and we tried to tell her what really happened...finally Belinda spoke up and said, "NO Granny. It was ME who hit THEM!" Um Belinda? How about an apology? Nope. That never happened. Not from her, not from Granny, not even from the deputy when he told us he refused to cite the sweet girl for a hit and run because she had "suffered enough". Oye. Oh and insurance? Nah. Belinda had none. But she had suffered enough. Okay, so we got our car started, after many tries, took the report Deputy Stevie wrote (That was a joke in itself) and headed on down the road planning to call our insurance company when we got to the hotel. (Thank God for USAA! They were amazing! But that is another story!)
Fast forward to our arrival in Philly. (Yeah, our little mishap delayed us so much that the antique shops and cute little cafes were never visited. Thanks Belinda!) Philadelphia was having a record breaking heat wave. When I say it was hot, believe me. It. Was. Hot. 104 degrees. We arrived at our hotel only to discover that their air conditioning system had broken down. Yup. The rooms were about 90 + degrees. Oh, and their hot water system was broken as well so no showers or baths. I had had enough...I refused to bring my newly arrived son to a hot room with two sweaty, stinky, shower less parents. Bill went out to a pay phone and began calling hotels in town. Turns out it was a big week for conventions. One hotel after another..."Sorry!""Sorry sir!" "Oh, so sorry!". Finally, after calling 12 others places, Bill found a room at the airport Hilton. They had ONE room and he grabbed it. As we sped off I asked Bill what kind of room and how much it cost. "I don't care of it's the Presidential Suite Susie! It's a room!" We were about a mile down the road when "POW!" "POW!" "POW!" One by one the helium balloons began to explode. The poor things had simply overheated in the car while waiting on us to find a hotel room. One, two, three, nine, ten, twelve...uh huh. One by one each balloon bit the proverbial dust. We saved just one. The giant, "We Love You!" heart. Oye.
Arrived at the Hilton and thankfully it was NOT the Presidential Suite! It was a *slightly* less expensive room but very nice. AND it had air conditioning and hot water! We took a nice long shower and laid down to take a nap...yeah, who could actually sleep? Okay, not me but Bill can sleep anywhere at any time so he snoozed away while I stressed. Stressed? It was stressful enough that we were about to become the parents of a 7 year old boy who spoke no English but I was also concerned about the storms on the horizon. They were predicting some vicious thunderstorms that evening. Yep, just about the time Daniel's plane was due to land. Oh and here is where I need to tell you that some of the stress was also due to the fact that my dad was having surgery, in Tennessee, that day. Would he be alright? Was his problem cancer? We were able to talk to Mom just before we went to the airport and Daddy was fine. No cancer and the problem had been corrected. Thank God! Now I was down to only one stress inducer and it was a biggie!
Arrived at the terminal and met our adoption agency representatives. We also met the family of another child arriving on the same plane. Handshakes, hugs and paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. And thunder. And lightening. And wind. The storm had arrived bringing torrential rain and tornado warnings with it. Oh goodie. The plane that was due to arrive at 6 had been delayed. To 7. Then to 8. Then to 9. Finally, at 10:45 it landed. We watched them taxi up until the plane's window was only a few feet away from our concourse window. Bill and I, and the other set of parents, had our noses pressed against the glass. Someone must have let the pilots know who we were and they held up a quickly scrawled sign that read, "All fine! Your kids are great!" At that point everything became hazy...people everywhere, noise, happy commotion and then he was there. That precious little boy was standing right in front of us. Just before the agency reps snapped this picture, Kim Yung Joon had bowed to us and said the words he had practiced all the way across the Pacific Ocean and then across the Continental US, "Hello Mama! Hello Papa! I happy to see you!" I knelt down, Bill leaned down and I took his hand. He had one hand in mine and then placed his other in Bill's hand. He smiled, we smiled through our tears and then, just like that, we were a family.
Gotcha! Now and forever...
The car accident, the heat, the storms, the exploding balloons all faded away as this gift from God walked with us, out of the airport and into our lives. It is a moment we will never forget.
Happy "Gotcha Day Daniel". We love you!