Ok, sure, I admit it. Not a major first in the grand cosmic scheme, is it? Still, it was important to me because my Dania Beach condo isn't all that far from the airport. I lived through the huge construction project that brought us the brand new south runway, an unusual structure because it slopes upward toward the east directly above busy Federal Highway.
I had watched the backhoes and bulldozers, the massive mounds of earth and the concrete columns for many months. The 8,000-foot runway cost $719 million, a giant undertaking that disrupted traffic in the area - my area - for a long time. I feel a certain personal stake in this runway, in some odd sense. And so it was that I came to that first takeoff. And first landing. I've been doing a bit of traveling lately and my recent flight carried me toward North Carolina from the south runway. I actually could spot my own condo building as the jet lifted off, climbing into a clear sky before banking northward. When I came home, my flight landed on the same runway, with more airport construction visible to my left and a view of lush tropical South Florida to my right. At last I had experienced the south runway for myself. Yes, they were two small firsts in my life for sure. The departure and arrival weren't so very different in most ways from nearly all the other flight departures and arrivals of my life, beginning with my first flight from Cleveland to Detroit at age 12. That was a memorable first. In a way, though, this new first was memorable too. I'd never before taken off and landed on a runway that I watched workers build, piece by piece, chunk by chunk. A runway that carried me within eyeshot of my own home as I left Greater Fort Lauderdale. It was a reminder how far this community has come since I moved here in 1989, when FLL felt like a minor regional airport. FLL is minor no more. It also was a reminder how far I have still to travel in my own life, or so I hope - with many firsts still to come, both big and small. When I stop to think about it, I suppose, maybe there are no small firsts anyway. Every first is a big one.