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.