More than 50,000 Americans are stranded overseas because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Colleen Cullen lives in Chicago and her trip to Peru started off on a high note with hiking and mountains.
But three days later, things took a sharp turn.
The Peruvian government closed its borders because of the pandemic.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotion,” she said. “And lot of anxiety over what’s next and what’s back for us in the United States. … If you were to ask me when this started 12 days ago if it was going to be 12 days before I got out, I wouldn’t even think it would be possible.”
It took the U.S. a week to send repatriation flights to bring people home.
Government officials said it’s been difficult to navigate each country’s landing rights and health restrictions.
“We are at a point where all of us have fewer resources than responsibilities right now,” U.S. Rep. Sean Casten said. “But people are doing their best with the tools that we have.”
Americans were told they’d receive an email when they’re cleared to board the next flight home.
But after hearing flights were leaving with dozens of empty seats, Cullen went to the airport to try to fly standby Friday morning.
“We started to get a little nervous. We’ve been here for going on three hours and they’re starting to let all the people who were on the manifest in,” she said. “At the end of this whole ordeal we were No. 3 and No. 4 in line that didn’t get on the flight.”
Now it’s just a waiting game.
“We’re going to be refreshing our emails for about five hours each night just hoping that we’re one of the lucky ones that are chosen,” she said. “And then there’s the option of trying to go through this standby list again.”
While this is far from the trip Cullen envisioned, there’s one thing helping her hold on to hope.
“Cusco is a beautiful town,” she said. “I have a beautiful view outside my window that definitely gives me a sense of calm and helps me see the beauty in all of this chaos.”