Teary-eyed returns home from college, and other Thanksgiving reunions at O'Hare

  • Emma Wilkinson, 18, of Lindenhurst celebrates her return from school in New York with her mom, Nancy, and her sister, Maddie, at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday.

      Emma Wilkinson, 18, of Lindenhurst celebrates her return from school in New York with her mom, Nancy, and her sister, Maddie, at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Chelsie Gapes of Chicago checks in at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport while her dog Ollie plays around with passenger Mira Friedman, 6, of Chicago as they head out for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

      Chelsie Gapes of Chicago checks in at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport while her dog Ollie plays around with passenger Mira Friedman, 6, of Chicago as they head out for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Home for Thanksgiving is where Emma Wilkinson, 18, of Lindenhurst finds herself as she hugs it out with her mom, Nancy, and her sister, Maddie, and father, Brad, in Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday.

      Home for Thanksgiving is where Emma Wilkinson, 18, of Lindenhurst finds herself as she hugs it out with her mom, Nancy, and her sister, Maddie, and father, Brad, in Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Mandy Lowe of Barrington, right, walks with her two daughters Marley, 9, and Violet, 8, as well as Kira Winstel of Texas, who just arrived with her son Conlan, 6, at O'Hare International Airport for the Thanksgiving holiday.

      Mandy Lowe of Barrington, right, walks with her two daughters Marley, 9, and Violet, 8, as well as Kira Winstel of Texas, who just arrived with her son Conlan, 6, at O'Hare International Airport for the Thanksgiving holiday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Passengers walk through the departures level of Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday.

      Passengers walk through the departures level of Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Chelsie Gapes of Chicago checks in at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday while her dog Ollie sits on her luggage looking at the flow of people as they head out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

      Chelsie Gapes of Chicago checks in at Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday while her dog Ollie sits on her luggage looking at the flow of people as they head out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/27/2019 7:04 PM

Tears at the airport are usually a sign of a painful parting, but in Emma Wilkinson's case, it was all about joy Wednesday.

A posse of her parents, Nancy and Brad Wilkinson, and sister, Maddie, with a welcome sign were waiting as she stepped off the Terminal 3 escalator at O'Hare International Airport, fresh from her first term at school in New York.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In fact, the entire family got a little misty-eyed because "we haven't seen her since Sept. 8," Nancy explained.

Similar reunions popped up across O'Hare, which will host 1.9 million travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday.

With sophomore Maddie studying biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Brad and Nancy Wilkinson said they were particularly thankful to have a full house.

They lives in Lindenhurst, a long haul from upstate New York where Emma is studying at the Culinary Institute of America.

"I never thought I would have someone flying in for the holiday, so this is exciting," Nancy said.

"This Thanksgiving is a little more special," Brad Wilkinson said.

Despite brisk air traffic, lines were manageable at security checkpoints and delays were averaging 15 minutes at O'Hare and Midway airports as of Wednesday afternoon.

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Out of 2,731 flights at O'Hare, 24 had been canceled and 396 delayed in a 24-hour period, mostly related to storms moving across the U.S.

But for Kira Winstel of Texas and son Conlan, 6, it was all gravy as college friend Mandy Lowe of Barrington and her two daughters Marley, 9, and Violet, 8, swept them up in hugs.

Lowe was thankful for "seeing these people."

"Like me," Marley chimed in.

The two moms, who met freshman year at West Virginia University, said they intended to spend time together cooking, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, ice skating and enjoying turkey.

"I like chicken," Conlan noted.

New Yorkers Ian Atkins and his wife, Nicole Passage, relaxed after a somewhat bumpy flight as they waited for her father to take them to a family celebration in Algonquin.

"Thanksgiving means a time to be around family, a time to reflect on the things you're thankful for, and an opportunity to take a look at the year that's passed," Atkins observed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Elsewhere, Dennis and Gloria Bentzen of Round Lake Park scanned the down escalator for Dennis' brother, Greg, arriving from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

On Thursday, Gloria planned a feast with "a big bird and the whole nine yards."

Said Dennis, "I'm just thankful for all the good things in my life."

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