Flying on 9/11

Today, I noticed from Facebook status updates and Twitter posts (tweets) that a few of my acquaintances were, like me, flying today. They noted what I did in my flights from Nashville to Oakland (via a change in San Diego): airports were quiet and the flights are less than half full. Out of a potential 137 passengers, my flight from Nashville to San Diego had 58 and my San Diego to Oakland flight had 44. As I have noted from experience, the first weeks of September are not heavy flying times in general as the vacation season has ended. However, today, it seemed an especially somber-flying day for airline passengers.

I can understand the trepidation. The date 9/11 means many things to us — in both a collective way and with each of us, in a uniquely personal way. I travelled today with my colleague John Lavey, who is the person who, six years ago, stuck his head in my office door and told me to head to the TV. This morning, we tried to recall how that morning went our office. I know several people who will read this post can remember our shared dismay as we followed the events unfold on a TV in our break room.

As our offices are in an 11-story building that also houses several regional and field offices of federal agencies including, at the time, the FBI, by mid-day we were told the building was going to be “secured” and were encouraged to send our staff home. A couple of our employees were in DC along with two clients who were traveling with them. The four of them wisely determined to use their rental car to immediately drive down to Nashville — Hertz and other rental agencies, you’ll recall, announced later they would waive all drop-off fees for customers who were in such circumstances.

As I headed out of our office building that early afternoon, the building was being guarded by, I assume, FBI agents, in full flak-gear with machine gun ready. It was, for me, a personal surreal moment in a collective surreal experience.

I think we all have our personal impressions of horror from that day. So, in no way am I suggesting that anyone should fly on a commercial aircraft on the anniversary of 9/11/2001 if it conjures up fear.

As for me, however, I hope there is something respectful in flying on this day. I know there are many ways this day is being remembered. For me, in a very small, personal way, flying cross-country was a way to say I won’t be intimidated by the heinous act of terrorists.

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  • Great post.

  • Barbara Mathieson

    Rex, I agree with Laura. I flew on Sept. 12, 2002, and the flight attendants talked about how strange it had been the day before. I flew on Sept. 11 later either 2003, 2004 or 2005. I balked at first, but it turned out to be just another day.

    Since there has been “chatter” and new video of Bin Laden, I think that’s why yesterday was worrisome for many people. Also, NYC was having an election for mayor on Sept. 11, 2001, and yesterday, our home town, Nashville, was having a mayoral election. That added to the weird factor for me. Plus you guys were flying to California, a cross country flight. The hijacked planes were on cross country flights on September 11, 2001.

    I flew today, and I have to admit that I was glad that I didn’t have to fly yesterday for the above reasons.

  • Shannon

    The HP kitchen has never been as quiet as it was that morning when we were all standing in front of the tv. The machine-gun agents have always stuck in my mind, too. I think that’s when it hit me how real it all was.

  • Hudge

    My wife and i flew on 9.13 out of Nashville. She has an implanted pump for administering a certain kind of medication. It of course triggered the alarm and she had to have a wanding off to the side, and a gentle pat down. Coming home from Chippewa International Airport near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., she triggered the alarm again. This time she was wanded, patted down, then wanded again, then taken to an area where they drew curtains around her and the guard did a much more thorough pat down. They were very courteous, professional and careful, even asking her if there were places that were tender or sensitive to the touch. I was glad we were early for the plane, as the process took about 15 minutes. But we were both surprised that such a small, remote airport would take such thorough precautions. Maybe it is a function of the traffic – I have noticed smaller airports sometimes taking far more detailed actions than larger aiprorts.