Blog: Detour on Day One

Laurel Clark
Barry Acton, Global News

Global News and Journalists for Human Rights have teamed up to send four Global News reporters to Africa as part of the Shaw Africa Project. 

Barry Acton of Global National and Laurel Clark of Global Edmonton were recently in Liberia. Global News followed their journey and their work over the course of several weeks.

There’s been a bit of a snag in Laurel and Barry`s Liberian Adventure. Ok, a major snag.

We have yet to take one step on to African soil!

It isn’t for a lack of trying. Barry and I met up in Toronto Thursday afternoon and boarded a 30-plus hour flight that would take us through Montreal, Brussels and Ivory Coast before reaching Monrovia, Liberia. (Ask anyone who flies regularly and they will tell you, this kind of schedule can give even a prima ballerina troll toes).

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But the stopovers were nothing compared to what we were in for Friday evening just minutes from Roberts International Airport in Liberia.

First wind. Then rain. And then turbulence.

Barry’s version of this event is slightly different as he was sleeping like a baby a few rows back. (After stints in Libya and Afghanistan, a little turbulence is nothing for this guy).

I, on the other hand, was gripping my arm rests and saying a silent prayer at every bump.

After attempting to approach the airport a couple times, the Brussels Airlines pilot was notified the runway was so drenched in water it was too dangerous to land. He decided to take us to Freetown, Sierra Leone until given further notice.

Here’s the problem: As we sat on the plane waiting for word, another pilot from another airline attempted to land on Liberia’s sopping runway….not only damaging the plane, but apparently tearing up a section of the runway. The airport was closed to arrivals as a result.

And Sierra Leone’s doors were closed to us. With no visas for the country we were not only stuck at the airport, we were stuck on the plane. But we weren’t left in limbo for long.

Within about half an hour, the pilot came on, announcing the only option was to turn around and make a 6 hour trek north…back to Brussels.

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I was a little miffed…knowing we were so close to an assignment that has occupied my thoughts for months. But the main thing is we made it out safely. And if our “only option” was to return to Brussels, sleep off the jet lag in soft white sheets, and digest our detour over Belgian beer….Well that’s nothing to complain about, is it?