Welcome home: Touching moments as border reopens
FIGHTING back tears with a heavy half-smile, Brendan Hunt hugged his children tightly at Sydney Airport Gate 4 ahead of the historic reopening of the Queensland border.
His daughter Holly, 7, and son Stephen, 6, clung to him fiercely as a Qantas attendant announced the final call for flight QF514, two hours before the Brisbane flight restrictions lifted at noon yesterday.
"I don't want to leave you Daddy, but I love flying and we're going to sit at the front of the plane and say hello to the pilot," said Stephen disappearing with his sister into the crowd of passengers.
"I love you, Daddy, it's been the best school holidays."
Their mother Mandy greeted them 751km away at Brisbane Airport, congratulating them on completing their first flight unaccompanied by parents.
"I hadn't seen the children since January, my former wife and I usually meet half way at Coffs Harbour when it's the school holidays and my turn to have them," said Brendan, 31, a navy petty officer from Caringbah, in Sydney's south.
"Holly is nervous about flying, it's their first time alone, but now the skies have reopened I won't need to drive 18 hours to pick them up.
"It'll be easier to see them in August for the next school holidays, it's just always so damn hard saying goodbye."
In emotional airport scenes reminiscent of the 2003 Christmas classic Love Actually, Meg Forster and her three daughters Zoe, 11, Lucy, 8, and Poppy, 5, were reunited with grandparents Susan and Robert Forster, "Nana and Bob", who they haven't seen since the border closed for first time since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919.
"I can't wait to see them, I think I might sneak in a hug," said Ms Forster, 45, before boarding the 2.05pm Qantas flight to Brisbane.
"It's just been us four, me working full time and the three girls, during COVID-19. It's been tough, I'm looking forward to some home cooking …" she said.
At Brisbane, emotional grandmother Susan Forster embraced the family.
"We're especially excited to see them," she said. "I felt depressed when they said the border would open in September."
For Sydneysiders Kaylee and Kurtis Seddon, the opening of the flight path blocked since March 26 means the twice annual family meet ups with their cousins Blake and Tyson can continue.
"They've been messaging all day, we're all excited," their aunt Skye Seddon said at an emotional reunion at the baggage hall at Brisbane Airport.
With 238,000 of the new seven-day border-declaration passes filled out in recent days, Queensland is set for a busy week ahead.
Among the first to land in Brisbane was love-struck Maddison Naulty, 24, who fought back tears when she glimpsed boyfriend Henry Manoa, 23, for the first time in four months.
"We thought it would work just fine, but then obviously COVID came and we haven't been able to see each other," she said.
"It was pretty sad … (but) we'll look back in future years and think this is such a special moment."
Originally published as Welcome home: Touching moments as border reopens