A Day In The Life Of The World's Busiest Airport

Eman Omar and Rita Sabbagh walk side by side through the airport, talking quietly in Arabic.

Omar's daughters, 11 and 12, walk a few yards in front of them.

Their names — Farah and Hiba — mean "joy" and "gift."

Farah has a nickname, too: "Mickey," given to her years ago by Americans in Iraq.

The girls are children of war, Omar says, and they have suffered greatly.

"I want to change that," she says. "They've had a hard life."

This Iraqi refugee family just arrived in Atlanta to begin a new life with the help of people like Sabbagh, a case aide with the International Rescue Committee.

Just 30 minutes ago, Sabbagh was rushing across the arrivals lobby to greet them. Omar was crying. One of her daughters was clutching a teddy bear.

"We don't know where we are," Omar, 40, said in Arabic. When Sabbagh told her they're in Atlanta, Omar burst into tears again — this time because she was so relieved to hear someone speaking her language.

"Are you going to stay with us?" she asks. Sabbagh tells her she's come to take them to their new home.

The three have been traveling for more than a day. First on a 10-hour flight from Istanbul to JFK. Then an overnight stay in a New York hotel. Then a two-hour flight to Atlanta after missing their connection at LaGuardia, where they couldn't find the security checkpoint.

They got lost again in Atlanta after getting off the plane, taking nearly 45 minutes to make it to the arrivals lobby.

Now, as they pile their six stuffed duffel bags onto a cart, global news blares from nearby TVs. The headlines are grim: World leaders are preparing for a possible military strike against Syria. Tension is bubbling over in Baghdad after a string of bombings killed 50 people.

The broadcasts are in English, a language Omar barely understands. But the stories are all too familiar.

Her husband was killed in war-torn Baghdad nearly a decade ago, when her daughters were just toddlers.

For eight years afterward, they tried to make Damascus their home. But violence from Syria's growing unrest forced them to flee.

They lived in Sakarya, Turkey, for nearly two years after that.

Omar says she brought her children to America for one reason: aman, the Arabic word for safety.

Seeing the two girls — skinny, shy and quick to smile — makes Sabbagh think back to when she immigrated to the United States from Israel with her own family decades ago. She was 16 at the time. Her brother was 2.

"That just took me back 32 years, when we came to a strange country," she says. "Now we're citizens. We never dreamed of that."

Omar smiles as she talks about how her daughters will go to school and study here, and how she wants to study, too, and learn English.

Walking outside the airport into the hot Atlanta sun, the girls start to giggle and play.

There are many good things about America, Omar says as she watches them. But the best thing, she says, is that they've arrived.

Source : http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/11/travel/atl24/index.html

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