the UIndy team at the end of the day leaving the airport

Our Trip Back Home

Today is our last day in Falfurrias. Our trip has come to an end. We’ve accomplished so much yet there’s still so much work that needs to be done. Of our five search and recovery days, we recovered human remains on 3 of those days. We should be proud of the work our team has done, but I can’t help but think of all the families out there still looking for closure. As I reflect on our drive north into San Antonio, these thoughts are running through my head. It feels weird to be relaxed and have a less rigid schedule, but we must return home at some point, right?     

We did a short debrief during breakfast at the hotel. Dr. Latham explained our layout for the day. Our first task was to have breakfast and clean out our rental car. We tracked in lots of sand and dirt, so we swept that out quickly before loading up our luggage. We decided to take some time to be tourists in downtown San Antonio before heading to the airport. We first stopped at The Alamo to visit the historic site. The Alamo is known for being a symbol of US courage during the Mexican-American War of 1846. We walked around the grounds admiring the sites. We were able to see a timeline wall of the five flags of independent nations that served these grounds. Adding in a sixth flag would be the United States which is where the amusement park, Six Flags, got its name as it originated in Texas.

front view of the San Antonio Alamo
The Alamo
Large oak tree planted at the Alamo for fallen soldiers
An oak tree planted in 1965 in honor of fallen soldiers
A timeline of the ownership of the Alamo land
The timeline of the Alamo history

Once we finished touring The Alamo, we headed downstairs to the Riverwalk. The San Antonio Riverwalk is 15 miles long and flows through downtown San Antonio. It is especially lively in the summer evenings. You can walk along the river and visit shops, restaurants, live music, history, and art. It was very beautiful and filled with various activities to do. I would love to come back at some point and spend a long evening on the Riverwalk. Today, we went to lots of souvenir shops, and I was able to purchase some gifts for my family. There were so many shops filled with handmade and authentic accessories, clothing, and trinkets. We spent time walking around, taking photos, and spending some time in a relaxed environment for the first time in about a week.

walking under a bridge towards the riverwalk with plants on the wall
Heading towards the Riverwalk
view from under an arch looking over the river at a stage for live music
Entering the Riverwalk
bridge over the riverwalk
The San Antonio Riverwalk
part of the Uindy team overlooking the Riverwalk
Part of the UIndy team shopping for souvenirs

      After leaving the Riverwalk, we headed to the San Antonio airport to get ready to fly home. We made it through security with no bags being checked so doing much better than our trip down south. We got our belongings together and headed to get some lunch. We had limited options, so we got some pizza and chatted about the trip during our final debrief. Dr. Latham prepared us for some of the feelings we might have in the next couple days. She said we may be feeling anxious, restless, or even unmotivated because we had such a routine down while in Falfurrias doing so much meaningful work. Something I know I will struggle with is finding out what to do next. But, the only way I can do that is if we actually make it home. The engines were running and we taxied out to the runway until the lights flashed and the plane stopped. Our flight was delayed due to air traffic control essentially saying there’s too many planes coming into the Dallas airport, where our connecting flight was. We sat on the runway for an hour waiting for traffic to die down which sounds strange when you’re referring to the sky. The worst part was that we had just about an hour layover meaning there was the possibility of missing our flight back home. Thankfully, after sprinting off the plane and through the terminals, we made it to our gate with about 5 minutes to spare. We figured something had to go wrong at some point on the trip and of course it was on our way home. Fortunately, we boarded the plane and arrived at our final destination.

UIndy team running through the airport
Running to catch our connecting flight

I’ve been having mixed feelings about coming home. It has not quite set in yet that I am not waking up tomorrow morning to search through the brush and sand for 8 hours of the day. In fact, all I have to do tomorrow is go to the dentist. I know this transition back into my normal life will be challenging and strange, but knowing I have my whole team going through the same feelings brings me comfort. I know that having this support system is essential to returning home and I couldn’t ask for a better team.