Not so fast.
We made our way to the baggage claims area and proceeded to wait. Bags periodically appeared on the conveyor belt, but not from our flight. New passengers appeared. More bags were delivered, still none of ours.
An hour went by. Then two. In the meantime, hundreds of unclaimed bags were piling up along the walls, in the open spaces between the carousels, and on the other side of the conveyor belts. More and even more irritated passengers milled around. We were advised by an airline representative that because of the flights diverted now landing in New York, there was a huge back up of luggage. The ground crews were trying to catch up but we needed to be patient, very patient.
Eventually I broke open a bag of Italian pretzels and shared them with an elderly gentleman from Milan on his way to see Muti conduct Attila at the Metropolitan Opera. I swapped travel stories with a woman trying to return to Moscow. And we commiserated with another couple from Greece.
I ended up in an interminable lost baggage claim line. After half an hour, we had moved forward enough to reach the entry to another set of carousels. I noticed a bag (among many others) propped against a far wall. It looked familiar.
I turned to the woman standing behind me. "I hate to impose, but I think I see my bag over there. Would you mind holding my place while I check?"
She grinned. "Go! Go!"
With the help of a man with long legs, I retrieved the bag.
I returned to the woman. "It's mine!" A cheer rose from the people around us.
I set to work digging through the hundreds of bags in that section, figuring that two bags checked together would, hopefully, be unloaded together. Some minutes later I found it.
I trundled it back to the line. "I got them both!" An even louder cheer rose from the crowd.
I never did learn any of the passengers' names. I thank them all.