I lost my passport but did my best not to lose my mind

BY BILL HORNER, III, News + Record Publisher
Posted 2/15/19

I was less than 24 hours away from an overnight, overseas flight from JFK in New York to Ukraine when I discovered my passport was lost.

If you’ve ever lost anything — who among us hasn’t …

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I lost my passport but did my best not to lose my mind

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I was less than 24 hours away from an overnight, overseas flight from JFK in New York to Ukraine when I discovered my passport was lost.

If you’ve ever lost anything — who among us hasn’t — and you reflect on it long enough, you realize what a misnomer the word “lost” is. It really means one of two things: gone forever or gone temporarily. The former means that for all practical purposes, it doesn’t exist anymore, so it’s not really lost. It’s just permanently gone.

The latter indicates it may eventually be found, so it’s not really lost, either — it’s just hidden for right now.

Anyway, you know the feeling. When you’re searching desperately for something, panic chases reason out the window.

The occasion surrounding my passport search was an annual mission trip my wife Lee Ann and I take each fall to the former Soviet country in Europe. Our church in Sanford has been involved in the work — through a ministry called International Partnerships Ukraine — for a decade or so, and last October’s trip was Lee Ann’s fourth and my third.

Packing the night before our flight, Lee Ann removed her passport from the drawer in which we’ve stored them safely for years. Mine, surprisingly, wasn’t there. Three hours of searching — ending at about midnight with utter exhaustion — yielded nothing. We’d used the passports just a few months before on a trip to Alaska, so the absence was baffling.

As I tried to sleep that night, my options narrowed as I was consumed with two lines of thinking. First, my passport had either been placed or had fallen into some odd location that I couldn’t possibly imagine, meaning that I could turn the house upside down and might never find it. Already, I’d looked in dozens of places I couldn’t imagine that it’d be, all to no avail. Looking in the garage or in our bonus room, for example, just didn’t make sense – but in reality, it could possibly be there.

Second, my passport could have been mistakenly thrown away when I cleaned out my backpack after the Alaska trip. A remote possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. If that were indeed the case, I’d never, ever find it no matter how many hours were devoted to the search.

What I failed to take into consideration before going to bed was a third possibility — one that that occurred to me when I woke up at 3 a.m. and began searching again, in vain: that is, that the dang thing was in a known, logical location that I simply hadn’t yet considered. Someplace that, when I found it, I’d say: “Oh, of COURSE!”

But where?

My window for finding it was closing quickly. I couldn’t make the trip without my passport, and I couldn’t get a replacement passport if I didn’t act immediately.

Exhausted, confused, frustrated, and armed with two opposing axioms — that, 1) things always have a way of working out, and 2) some problems don’t solve themselves — I ditched my search and committed to the new plan of getting a replacement passport.

Surely I wasn’t the first person in history to lose a passport less than 24 hours before and overseas trip, so there had to be a solution. Turns out there was. At about 5:30 a.m., I hopped on the State Department’s website and grabbed the only in-person appointment I saw – for 2:30 p.m. that same day in New York City. Showing up in-person at one of the handful of State Department offices around the country that do same-day emergency passports was my only option. And because the airline ticket I was holding was for a 7:30 p.m. flight to JFK, I had to figure out a way to get to midtown NYC by lunchtime in order to make that 2:30 appointment.

I did — through a series of pretty wild, harrowing events that began with me driving to Raleigh-Durham Airport to catch a 10 a.m. flight for which I had no ticket — and by 5 p.m. I was holding my brand new passport and had hailed an Uber for the return trip back to JFK.

My wife and our other traveling companion arrived at JFK shortly before 10 and just after midnight, we each flashed our passports as we boarded a Ukrainian Airlines flight for Kiev. Some 24 hours later, after a good night’s sleep, we re-packed our bags for our road trip to Chernivtsi and the Carpathian mountains to begin our retreat with a group of more than two dozen young Ukraine professionals.

It was during that re-packing process in the hotel that morning I picked up a small, expandable black shoulder bag to place into one of our suitcases. As soon as I picked it up — Lee Ann had packed it earlier back at home — I knew it: my “lost” passport was inside.

Oh, of COURSE.

I knew I’d find it. Eventually.


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