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New beginnings at the world's busiest airport

By Etan Horowitz, CNN
updated 12:19 PM EST, Mon November 18, 2013
You can learn a lot about people by looking at the photos they post to social media sites from the airport. The following photos were posted to Instagram from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on August 28, the same day that CNN reported ATL24, an upcoming multimedia project showcasing a day in the life of the world's busiest airport. The stories behind the photos reveal that for some, a flight is more than a way to get from one place to another. It's the start of something new. You can learn a lot about people by looking at the photos they post to social media sites from the airport. The following photos were posted to Instagram from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on August 28, the same day that CNN reported ATL24, an upcoming multimedia project showcasing a day in the life of the world's busiest airport. The stories behind the photos reveal that for some, a flight is more than a way to get from one place to another. It's the start of something new.
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New starts at the Atlanta airport
A new life in Bermuda
A visit to a dream college
First meeting with a new granddaughter
Saying goodbye
First journey to Africa
First American meal after a honeymoon abroad
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN sent three dozen journalists to document one day at the Atlanta airport on August 28
  • On the same day, thousands of travelers were posting their own stories on social media
  • Get a taste of the stories shared online that day and come back this week for the full report

Editor's note: Visit CNN.com later this week for ATL24, our full coverage of one day in the life of the world's busiest airport.

Atlanta (CNN) -- Laura Siegfried sat aboard Delta Flight 656 to Bermuda on the morning of August 28 thinking about where she had been and where she was going.

A month before, she was exactly where she and her family had expected she would be: working at a marketing firm in northwest Arkansas after graduating from the University of Arkansas in December. But she hated it. The 24-year-old felt underpaid, unappreciated and unmotivated.

She knew she needed to make a change.

After a month of planning, she accepted as job as an au pair for a family with two children in Hamilton, Bermuda.

ATL is the world's busiest airport for Foursquare check-ins

- First venue of any kind to hit 1 million check-ins

- Third most popular Foursquare venue of all time, behind a plaza and bridge in Istanbul

- On Aug. 28 there were about 2,000 check-ins at the airport

Most popular ATL airport venues on Aug. 28:

1. Main airport venue

2. Delta Sky Club

3. Plane Train

4. Concourse B

5. Concourse A



SOURCE: Foursquare

What's in an airport name?

Sitting in her seat waiting to take off, Siegfried said she was "absolutely flipping out excited but I was so nervous. I thought my knees would give out. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was about to move in with a family I had never met on a 12-month agreement. It was pretty intimidating."

You can learn a lot about people by looking at what they post on social media when they're at the airport.

That day in late August, CNN sent a team of more than three dozen journalists to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to document an entire day at the world's busiest airport by volume of passengers and the number of takeoffs and landings. (The stories CNN discovered both behind the scenes and among travelers will be published on November 20.)

At the same time, thousands of people passing through the Atlanta airport were telling their own tales via social media.

Siegfried's close family and a few friends knew about the move, but nobody else did.

So to officially announce her big move to the world, she took a photo of her boarding pass and passport and posted it to Instagram with the following quote from Robert Louis Stevenson: "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

Now, two and a half months later, she has no doubts. Though she misses her family and friends, she feels a great sense of personal achievement and growth for making the move.

10 airport restaurants that taste like home

"Relocating is never an easy thing to do -- especially by yourself -- but I am too curious about the world not to," Siegfried said. "I love it here, I am able to impact the lives of kids and set a good example for them. ... Sometimes the happiest decisions may not always look like the most impressive ones on a resume, but I'm OK with that -- for the time being."

First step toward a lifelong dream

Later that day, 17-year-old Nicholas Erebia sat in the terminal waiting for a flight to Columbus, Ohio, that would bring him closer to achieving a lifelong dream.

Since he was 5 years old, the high school senior from Acworth, Georgia, has wanted to attend The Ohio State University. The dream dates back to when he was living in Akron, Ohio, and watched his aunt graduate from Ohio State.

As he got older he rooted for the school's sports teams and told everyone that when he was old enough, he would enroll at the Big Ten school.

So as he waited for Delta flight 1030 to board, he was anxious and nervous, but also excited about the three-day campus trip he was about to take. That's when he posted a photo of his boarding pass on Instagram with the caption: "My first official college visit, and it's at @theohiostateuniversity!! So ready!! #GoBuckeyes."

During the 90-minute flight, Erebia shared a row with his father and twin brother, who both fell asleep. But he was wide awake, staring out the plane's window, thinking about his future.

"I realized, 'Wow, I'm going to visit the college of my dreams,'" Erebia said.

The visit only strengthened his resolve. If he is accepted, Erebia plans to study aviation and business so that he can be a pilot for the Navy and then a commercial airline pilot.

Erebia said he needs to score higher on the SAT if he wants to fulfill his dream.

"But with hard work and the passion I have for the university, I know I can get in."

'I was so happy'

Denise Pennamon was so excited about her trip to the airport that she couldn't sleep the night before. But she wasn't flying anywhere.

Instead, the arrivals lobby at the Atlanta airport would serve as the site of her first meeting with her granddaughter, 2-month-old Suri.

The Monticello, Georgia, woman's son and daughter-in-law live on an Air Force base in Idaho, so she had only seen pictures of her first granddaughter.

Pennamon stood with a group of relatives in the arrivals lobby waiting for the infant to emerge with her parents.

"I cried. I was so happy," Pennamon, 47, said. "It was so special to get to see them. I thought I wouldn't see them until Christmastime. Everybody was trying to be the first one to hold the baby."

While Pennamon was with a large family contingent at the airport, she wanted to share the joy of meeting Suri with a wider group. So at 9:05 p.m. she posted a picture to Instagram of herself holding the baby in her arms and looking into her eyes.

"Meeting my grand daughter for the first time," the caption said.

Visit CNN.com/ATL24 later this week for a full day in the life of the world's busiest airport.

Daphne Sashin contributed to this report.

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