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Charlie Carillo Headshot

On a Wing and a Prayer

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LONDON - Nobody says anything, and nobody has to. We all know that it's a dubious day to be riding on a plane. We line up for the security check at Heathrow Airport on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as if it's any other day, which it certainly isn't.

The usual procedures, the metal detectors and the rest of it, and then a security agent rubs my carry-on luggage with a special little cloth to detect explosives.

I get singled out for things like this a lot. My wife is British and I make this trip often, usually alone. I always look like I need a shave, I don't carry much luggage and my passport has been stamped a million times.

If I were security and I saw me coming, I'd stop me, especially on this somber anniversary.

And I'm cool with it, because cool is the only way to be at the airport these days. But then I remember my mother-in-law's ice cream sundae and I start to sweat.

Just a few hours earlier we'd been celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday at a restaurant in the English countryside. They brought her a huge ice cream sundae with an actual fireworks display on it, shooting sparks.

I'd been sitting right in the path of the sundae's smoky fumes. Gunpowder smells. Oh boy. The last thing I was thinking about was an explosives check at Heathrow while I was singing "Happy Birthday, Dear Betty," but now it was time to think about it.

I sniff my shirt, wonder if maybe I'd touched my shirt and then my hand luggage, and figure I could be moments away from a cavity search when suddenly the security man pronounces me safe and waves me through.

Everybody seems calm as we board the plane. Then comes an announcement that shakes me to my shoes.

"We're looking for three passengers," says the polite British flight attendant over the public address system. She gives their names and then says: "If you're in the aircraft, please make yourselves known to the crew."

If you're in the aircraft?!

Shouldn't they know exactly who's in the aircraft? What's all this security about, if they don't even know who's on the plane?

I'm not being paranoid, or am I? We take off a little while later, and the flight attendant wishes us all "a relaxed and enjoyable flight." Sure.

There's a little turbulence at the start of the trip, exactly what we don't need on a night like this, so I force myself to think of something funny. In my life the comedians I've always respected most were the guys I went to school with at Holy Cross High, class of 1973.

You needed guts to be a comic at Holy Cross, because the teachers were allowed to hit us. A wise crack could get you a crack across the face. Sometimes a punch line was exactly that. You truly suffered for your comedy.

One of the funniest guys in the class was Louie Inghilterra, and what made him unique was that he could be funny without being mean. Louie wrote the rock 'n' roll column for the school newspaper. He wore his hair long and I remember his eyeglasses were tinted. Maybe those glasses helped color his zany outlook on life.

One cold winter day Louie came to school without his Latin homework. The teacher demanded to know why he hadn't done it.

Louie spread his hands, innocence personified. "I did do it," he explained. "But see, I carved it on a wax tablet, and I accidentally left it on the radiator last night."

Silence. The class stared in wonder at Louie, who'd just delivered the most outrageous excuse in the history of the school.

My homework melted.

Everybody tensed up in anticipation of Louie's inevitable punishment, but then a wonderful thing happened. The teacher burst out laughing. What else could he do? He was smart enough to know he'd never again hear a story so original. The teacher's laughter was the cue for the whole class to explode in relieved laughter. A great, shining moment.

Louie Inghilterra was always making people laugh. He was the kind of guy you'd look forward to seeing at class reunions, but I never attend reunions, and even if I did, I wouldn't see Louie. He was on the 95th floor of 2 World Trade Center when the planes hit, ten years ago.

He was a good guy, and he is missed, and he is in my thoughts as my plane touches down safely at JFK.

Charlie Carillo is a TV producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His website is www.charliecarillo.com. His first published novel, "Shepherd Avenue," is now available on Amazon Kindle.

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