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    Posted January 29, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Wintry weather 2014

    Marooned Commuters Saved By Heroic Hotel Staff

    On January 28, I just landed in Atlanta back from a Caribbean trip. The realization I was in the middle of a disaster came slowly. Shock No.1: No cabs at the International Terminal. Call my wife, she says stuck in traffic, picking up at the airport unrealistic, agreed on her meeting me at the northernmost MARTA commuter rail station called North Springs. Coming back from the Caribbean, and counting on either taking a cab or being picked up in a car, I have no warm clothes.

    MARTA station at the airport is convenient, but you have to wait for the train upstairs where it is exposed to the elements. About 10 min. later I was VERY glad to see my train. On the way to North Springs it was slowly sinking in that Anna, my wife, was not going to beat me to the station. Shock No.2. The station was completely unshielded from the weather. Shock No. 3: No cabs at the station, no one at any of the taxi companies was picking up. The biting cold was beginning to feel unbearable. Shock No. 4: Passengers that arrived at the station with me and had parked there, were having second thoughts about actually driving their cars. Call to my wife: Anna was still stuck on the same street within 50 ft. of the spot she was an hour ago.

    At this point, the realization that I am in a disaster was finally pretty close to full. The intuition, of an impending doom from pneumonia or hypothermia, or both, followed nearly instantly thereafter. I knew there was no way I could wait for Anna at the station. I had to figure out an alternative way to survive. I called Anna to tell her to turn around and go home. She told me she can forget about turning around - not possible, the proverbial die has been cast. She would have to creep forward.

    At this point it is about 6, twilight. I remember that two stations back is Perimeter Mall, I could be safe there, recent spate of random mall shootings around the country be damned. The prospect of demise from freezing, to which by now could be added starvation loomed far more menacing. Paid the fare, got back up on the platform and commenced the wait for the next train. The next 20-30 minutes lasted an eternity. When I finally arrived at the Perimeter Mall station, Shock No. 5: Mall is closed. Not only is it closed, “they are kicking people out”. Someone suggests there is a hotel "about half a mile" from the station. I start out that way, lugging my suitcase. I cross Hammond Dr. and see an open restaurant a few steps away. As soon as I walk in, the hostess informs me that the kitchen is closed, but I am welcome to go to the bar. Every chair and all the bar stools in the restaurant are taken by marooned commuters. After warming myself up for ten or so minutes, I resume my quest for the promised hotel “0.5 mi away”. I don't know what the actual distance was, but it did not feel like no "half mile", and it was uphill to boot with the suitcase dragging (not rolling) in the snow behind.

    When I finally made it, it felt like I completed a triathlon. My lungs were burning and I felt a faint euphoria (probably the result of a subconscious realization that I was not going to be killed by hypothermia this night). That there were no vacant rooms was clear from all the stragglers in the lobby.

    This hotel turned out to be a ray of warm light on an icy dark night in Georgia.

    Despite being desperately understaffed because the employees of this hotel were just as stranded as everyone else in metro Atlanta, the hotel staff did everything possible and probably a lot that was impossible to make the people sheltering there comfortable.

    The key here is that they did not just try, they succeeded! They set a free buffet for everybody who was there, hotel general manager, Danny Hiatt (as I discovered by accident because I wanted to thank this employee for his hospitality and help) was passing around drinks and clearing tables. Later they passed out blankets, pillows, opened up ballrooms and meeting rooms, so that stranded travelers could sleep pretty darn comfortably under the circumstances.

    When all is said and done, the GM and the skeleton staff of this Crowne Plaza at Ravinia did more than save all of us there from hypothermia, hunger and thirst. I am convinced that for all of the lucky victims of the weather, traffic and Atlanta city government ineptitude, that happened to seek (and find) shelter at this Crowne Plaza, they saved our faith in humanity and our ability to continue to be proud of being Atlantans.

    My wife eventually, by 2 am, miraculously made it to the hotel. And now, you know the (rest of) the story
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