A Hawthorn Woods couple had just picked up their luggage and were heading to rent a car at Los Angeles International Airport when they became enveloped in the chaos of a shooting in the terminal they had just left.
"We had just walked outside and everyone started sprinting out of the airport," said Alfred Scaletta. "We couldn't figure out what was going on."
Contact information ( * required )
The gravity of the situation soon revealed itself to the 52-year-old Scaletta.
"We started seeing police running into the terminal, so we hid behind a concrete barrier in the parking lot," he said. "There were a lot of people trying to get on their phones or taking pictures and video. There was a woman who was crying because I think she was waiting for someone to come out and I was just rubbing her back to calm her down."
Soon, the Scalettas were corralled back into the neighboring international terminal's baggage claim area by police, where they remained locked down for the next six hours. He said police began scouring the attached parking garage to make sure there weren't any other shooters there.
During the lockdown, Scaletta said he and his wife were in an area with about 100 people. He said he felt safe in the terminal despite the uncertainty of what was going on around him.
"There are police and security people all around us," Scaletta said earlier Friday afternoon. "We don't know a whole lot, just what we're seeing on TV."
Sadly, this is not Scaletta's first brush with danger this year.
"I was at Boston earlier this year and finished the marathon before the bombing, and now it's like it's happening again," he said.
The father of three had finished the Boston Marathon in April about 30 minutes before homemade bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people, injuring nearly 300 others and setting off a two-day manhunt for two brothers accused of planting the bombs.
The Scalettas flew into Los Angeles to visit their daughter, Hillary, at her college and celebrate her 20th birthday this weekend, he said.
They were finally allowed to leave by 3:30 p.m. Los Angeles time, and then walked about two miles to get a rental car since police were still not letting any shuttle buses or other vehicles come near the terminal.
"There's hundreds of thousands of people walking out of this airport and walking down the street," he said.
Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said security at O'Hare and Midway airports was on "heightened awareness" after the shooting, but wouldn't go into specifics citing security protocols.
• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.