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Travel, Fear, and the Legacy of 9/11

I just got back from Greece which was amazing!  I have stories and photos to share, but first a little catch up.  Before the trip I was reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and wrote a little something.  I didn’t post it because I would be missing all the national reflection the week before the anniversary and wanted to see what the mood of the remembrance was like.  Given that my flight from Paris to the US today was half full, I think the point I was originally trying to make is still very valid and so here it is.

We always visit my husband’s family for Thanksgiving.  Last years, I found myself chatting with one of their family friends (let’s call her Donna) after church.  She has one son close to my age that we’ll call Adam, so I made small talk by asking how he was doing.  Here is more or less how it went:

Me: So how is Adam doing?  I haven’t seen him in so long.

Donna:  He is doing wonderful, thank you for asking.  He’s studying in Australia and just loves it there.

Me: That’s so great!  I’ve heard Australia is amazing.

Donna: He definitely thinks so.  And he’s got a pretty serious Australian girl-friend that he is head over heels about.

Me: Oh I love it!  That’s great.  Has he brought her home to meet you yet?

Donna: No, he hasn’t been home in about a year and a half.

Me: So have you gone to see him?

Donna: Oh no dear, I don’t fly.

Me: (Laughing) Oh those long flights aren’t so bad.  You fall asleep and in no time you’re there.  You have to go, you’d have so much fun.  He could give you the real insider tour of Australia!

Donna: Oh no, I don’t fly because of the terrorists.

Me: (serious pause to make sure I heard that right)  What?

Donna: After 9/11, it’s just not safe to fly.  I’ll see him whenever he comes back.

Me: You know that security has really been beefed up.  I fly a lot and feel very safe.

Donna: No, no, it’s just too risky to fly.

So what do you say to that?  Maybe she didn’t want to  admit the flights were too expensive or that she couldn’t get off work or maybe, really she was and is afraid of terrorists.  I know she loves her only son and it must have been killing her not to see him.

The definition of terrorism is the “systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”.  The very purpose of the 9/11 attacks was to damage America and make us fearful so that we would change our daily lives.  When people started making jokes again afterward, you often heard the “…then the terrorist win” phrase, as in “If I can’t get into this movie, then the terrorists win.”  The crux of that joke was that we were not going to give up what we wanted to do in spite of a handful of extremest.  The attacks were a tragedy but I have never had the sense that something like that would happen again.  We, as a country, would not let that happen again.  I’ve never actually met someone (especially then when we were over 9 years past the attack) who was so afraid and was thus giving up so much because of that fear.

A Kangaroo in Australia.

Mr. Kangaroo says, Visit Australia because you can (Photo: Wikipedia)

As I drove home after that conversation, I started doing some math.  Let’s pretend that there is only one flight a day from the US to Sydney.  It is either a Airbus A380 or a Boeing 747 so that is approximately 450 passengers per day.  In on year, that’s 164,250 people who flew to Australia.   Last November when this conversation took place, it was 9 years since Sept 11, 2011, which is 1.47 million passengers who have visited Australia.  Sure, this number may be high because some of those people are repeats from year to year (like families), but there are also several daily flights from the US to Australia so maybe the number is actually too low.

My point is this: travel.  So much can be gained by traveling, if you have any desire to see the Taj Mahal, sip Chanti in Italy or even visit your son in Australia, you should go.

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