September 11, 2001 is a date that is etched in every American’s mind. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when we heard the news that two planes crashed into the Twin Towers. I know I certainly can. It was a day that brought fear around one of the greatest joys in life…travel.
My husband and I were in transit on 9/11. It was our second anniversary, and we were traveling with a group of friends to a small nominally Muslim country. We had a full day layover in London on the 11th, so we ventured out to the city for some sightseeing. Even though we were exhausted from travel and in the company of several people, it felt romantic and adventurous to be walking down the streets of London, celebrating two years of wedded bliss. We snapped our mugs in front of Big Ben, admired the beauty of Westminster Abbey, strolled by Buckingham Palace, felt the cool grass of Green Park between our toes, and stuffed hot pizza down our throats (a welcome change to airplane food) all before catching the Tube back to Heathrow.
As we joined fellow commuters on the train, there was a strange sense in the air. We caught snippets of information as we overheard phone conversations. “The Twin Towers fell.” “There was an attack.” It was all very strange, and it didn’t make sense to our ears. How could the Twin Towers just fall? We tried to put the pieces together the best we could. It all became a little bit clearer as we entered the chaos at London Heathrow. Something very, very bad had happened.
I had never seen anything like it. Lines of people, some wailing over the atrocities, some angry that their flight was cancelled and they couldn’t get home to their loved ones, many in shock over news that just seemed too surreal to be true. The one that stood out, though, was the gal who could barely compose herself enough to wonder out loud if her sister, who worked in the Twin Towers, was still alive.
Although our flight was delayed, we were still scheduled to depart that night. It was an odd feeling, the thought of getting on something that was just used as a weapon. The mild state of shock I was in made me feel like a robot just doing as it’s told. Call to board. Get up. Walk to boarding line. Hand over boarding pass.
Every nook and cranny of our carry-ons were checked. The process was tedious but necessary in light of the day’s events. Cleared to board, I walked the jet bridge to the airplane. Fear gripped the deepest places of my heart as I surveyed the crowd sitting in that tin can. Our motley crew were the only Americans on this flight. An odd chill crept over me as I made the choice to face my fear and move one leg in front of the other to my seat. At least they called in the biggest flight attendants I had ever seen.
We made it to our destination and were greeted with the warmest “I’m sorry’s,” I ever did hear. Two weeks later we departed for the USA.
It was a year later before we ever saw footage on TV from that fateful day. Disbelief and shock registered all over again as we watched in horror, wondering who could orchestrate such a catastrophic event.
I’ve boarded many airplanes since that day, fourteen years ago. While there are no guarantees in life, my love for travel is embedded so deeply in my bones that I can’t let fear keep me from it. I do, however, utter a little prayer every time I make the walk down the jet bridge to my seat. Fear may not stop me, but I still won’t say no to a little help from above.
Do you still remember where you were September 11, 2001? Did it affect your desire to travel?