9/11 Remembered: The Year of Flying Dangerously (Part 4)

9/11 Remembered: The Year of Flying Dangerously (Part 4)

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“9/11 Remembered: The Year of Flying Dangerously” (Part 4)

(The third installment of Dick Jordan’s recollections of the events of September 11, 2001 appeared yesterday. The story concludes today.)

 Unhappy Travels

A month after returning from Europe we were in the air again, this time flying from San Francisco to Newark where we picked up a rental car and drove northwestward into Pennsylvania. In mid-summer my wife had gone back to upstate New York to help her 94 year old ailing aunt move into an assisted living facility located across the Delaware River just a few miles south of her home. Now we were coming to help her celebrate her 95th birthday.

(Wikipedia Commons Photo)

The health of my wife’s aunt had declined since August. She was hospitalized when we arrived, then moved to a nursing home. We bought a cake and some gifts and held a bed-side birthday party for her.

We stopped at the nursing home the following morning to pay her one last visit before driving on to the Newark airport for the trip home. But she had died sometime during the night, so we rescheduled our flight to later in the week in order to attend the funeral.

As it turned out, we might not have made it home that day, anyway. Earlier in the morning American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Queens shortly after takeoff from JFK. Flight operations at Newark were temporarily suspended due to concerns that the plane might have been brought down by a terrorist attack.

(NOAA Photo)

Less than a month later I received a phone call from my stepfather’s brother. My stepfather had suffered a severe stroke. I flew to Seattle the following day, stayed with him until he passed away at the end of the week, and set about making the funeral arrangements. My wife arrived from California, we buried my stepfather, then flew home just before Christmas.

Temporarily Grounded

We did little traveling in 2002 and nearly all of it was in our own cars.

Although I flew to and from Seattle to go sailing with a friend, my wife had no desire to fly again so soon after our three post-9/11 trips.

We gradually resumed vacation travel by air.

In the summer of 2003 we went by plane to the area in and around Glacier National Park.

(Dick Jordan Photo)

In 2004, we boarded flights to Maui, Montana, Atlanta, and Phoenix.

The following year we flew to Las Vegas, Idaho, and Montreal.

Déjà Vu

In August of 2006, less than three weeks before our planned return visit to Europe, British authorities uncovered an alleged plot to use liquid explosives to blow up ten airliners flying between the U.K. and the U.S. and Canada.

Chaos reigned at Heathrow and other airports world-wide.

(Snappy Goat Photo)

Flights were canceled. Some passengers were stranded, others were told to arrive many hours before departure because clearing security checkpoints would be a prolonged process.

New rules limiting the type of liquids and gel products that could be placed in carry-on luggage were implemented.

British officials prohibited passengers from bringing aboard more than a single bag about the size of one used to tote a laptop computer.

At SFO and Heathrow my wife’s cosmetic bag was gone through with a fine-tooth comb, but my toiletry kit was given only a cursory inspection.

Before flying from London to Vienna on British Airways we carefully re-packed our hand luggage so it would meet the new bag-size limits, only to watch a man ahead of us in line at the security checkpoint walk through carrying a huge rucksack which was clearly over-size.

(Needpix Photo)

It was debatable who was the least informed and most confused about the new security measures: Passengers, or airport security staff.

No Problemo

Three years later we were once again on an airporter bus headed to San Francisco International to catch a flight to London at the beginning of a month-long trip across Europe.

As in 2006, we would stay two nights in London, then fly from Heathrow to the Continent, work our way back to London by car and train, then board a Heathrow-SFO flight to get home.

(Geograph Photo)

So what terrorist plot or activity threw a monkey-wrench into our plans this time?

None, nil, nada.

No liquid bombers.

No shoe bombers.

No hijackers.

Everything went smoothly at the airport and on-board.

What The Future Holds

What happened on September 11, 2001, has forever changed the air travel experience. Those terrible events have not been repeated thus far, but the once-friendly skies will never, ever again, feel entirely safe.

Our bags can be checked, but our subliminal fear of flying will cannot.

(This is the final segment in his recollections of 9/11 and his travels over several years following that awful, unforgettable day in American and world history. This story was first published on Tales Told From The Road in September of 2011. At age 7, Dick Jordan donned a suit and tie, climbed aboard a United Airlines DC-6, and took his first flight: Up to Vancouver, British Columbia.)

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