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Heathrow! What a surreal experience!

Heathrow! What a surreal experience!

Posted Mon 3rd Jul 2023 at 10:49
by Lily Richards


Read this great account of Lily's experience behind the scenes at Heathrow airport, raising awareness and educating staff about TS

When you go to Heathrow you never think of the number of people working there. The number of different jobs they do. The amount of planning and preparation that goes in to flying a plane. How each worker impacts your flying experience. You never really consider it. I didn’t. Until I got an amazing opportunity to learn about it all, while helping Heathrow be more inclusive.

When I got there, it was quite daunting. The size of it all. The fact Tourette’s isn’t notorious for allowing you to stay quiet when you think it’s desperately needed. It does cause a bit of fear. But as soon as I got there, everyone was incredibly lovely. So accepting. So helpful. The fear I arrived with disappeared.

First, we went on the baggage hall tour. Wearing very fashionable Hi-Viz, steel toe cap boots and helmets for safety. This was where thousands of bags were checked, stored, and placed; ready to be loaded onto the plane. It was fascinating how people and machinery needed to work together to complete the task. Parts of the baggage tour looked like a theme park for suitcases as they went up and down, left, and right, to wherever they needed to go next. Another plus was the noise. As the machinery was working it was quite loud, meaning I could tic lots without anyone hearing. Always a bonus!

Next, we went to the control tower. This part felt like an oversize video game. The screens showed the planes’ arrivals and departures on the ground like they were just models. Then we went to the top of the control tower which, if you’re not a fan of heights, would be deeply traumatic. Although, the view really was beautiful. Everything looked tiny. Especially the planes. I couldn’t believe I was there. However, I was never able to take a picture of the view as my tics would jump at the chance at throwing my phone!

After seeing Concorde, we went to fire station. As soon as we got there fire fighters were being called into action. Apparently, it’s quite common to get calls all around Heathrow about fire as it’s such a big place! We were then allowed inside of a fire truck, and then a firefighter allowed us to spray water from the fire truck. It was so much fun! They then drove us onto the runway with the sirens wailing. Being that close to the aeroplanes was completely incredible!

Lastly, was the tour of operations. Yet again, I was amazed by the number of jobs behind the scenes. For example, one of the jobs was making sure the weather was good for flying. It makes sense that it is a job, but I never assumed it beforehand!

We finished with a Q&A. The staff there seemed very interested on how to help. Asking questions about Tourette Syndrome and how to show acceptance whenever they met people with the syndrome. Unsurprisingly, I was very ticcy at this point talking about my Tourette’s. Which, for once, might have been helpful in showing the realities of tic disorders.

Overall, it was an amazing experience, made even better by the kindness of the staff. Not once did I get looked at angrily. Everyone wanted to learn about tics, and it was a great addition to support with Tourette’s Awareness month.

Thank you, Tourettes Action and Heathrow Airport, for the wonderful experience!

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