Jody and the Jacksons
By Jim Alger
Exclusive to Mayor Sam's Sister City
So when we got the plane towed off of runway 34 at Jackson International Airport to the waiting Fire Dept. I was greeted by Chief George Farrar. While he and his crew unloaded the plane, the bigger question at hand was why on earth did I just fall out of the sky? The flight from texas was 3.4 hours, fuel should be fine but she sure was acting like she was out of gas. Sure enough, ended up being a fuel line problem. Easy fix and we were ready to go in 20 minutes. As I walked to the plane I was approached by a woman. "Excuse me?" she said "are you a pilot?"
This began a 15 minute conversation where she told me that she had walked several miles to the airport with her daughter hoping to get a flight to family in Knoxville. She had escaped the 30 foot storm surge in southern Misssissippi, but her house was simply gone. Was I happening to be going in that direction? She was acting as if the airport were the interstate, essentially hitchiking her way to safety. Wasn't planning on Knoxville, but it was only a 3 hour flight and I could stop there overnight so we loaded up on the plane and headed to Tennessee.
After landing at Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville, TennesseeI gave the two passengers my LA City bussiness card and saw them off to waiting family, I decided to let the people I was coordinating with know that I was in Knoxville. Turns out a woman named Jody was attempting to coordinate an effort to get relief down to Jackson.The word was out that this was our staging point. We had enough cash on hand to fuel six aircraft in addition to my own and she had supplies. This is how the airlift operation grew. The next day we flew the supplies down to Jackson, a flight of 7 aircraft all coming into an airport that isn't used to dealing with more than 1 or 2 aircraft at a time sure got the tower controllers attention. We all got down on the ground and as the parade of aircraft pulled up to the tiedowns I noticed the Chief called out the local media. He also figured it would be a good idea to provide NBC with my cell phone number which they then placed on the crawler on the bottom of the screen. Pilots were coming out of the woodwork, and my voicemail was jammed. But through it all we were getting a real operation going. as I cleared my voicemails sometime around daybreak, there was one that caught me. A simple "Thank you for flying us to Knoxville Jim, from the Jackson Family". You know...? I never asked their name.
Next... supplies not getting through.