We Have a Long Way To Go

It’s 1:00 P.M., Central Time; Monday, September 17, 2001. Just six short days since the tragic events that occurred in New York and Washington, D.C.

I think about the heroes that stepped up last Tuesday, September 11, 2001—the rescuers, firemen, policemen, pilots, flight attendants, public servants, public officials, and what they are calling the “victims.” Yet, each victim was a hero in their own way. Each gave up their most precious commodity, their life. They made the most incredible sacrifice one could make. And even though we are still in the midst of our own processes and turmoil, America will bounce back and bounce back in a way that has never been witnessed on the face of this earth.

Yet, at this exact moment, I am flying at 35,000 feet on my way to a faraway destination in Texas. I was taken somewhat aback by what I saw at the airport today. No lines, no cars, not even anyone screaming at the counter attendants about some mistake on their flight ticket. Security—very tight. My driver’s license was checked, checked again, and rechecked. The security people even took time to REALLY LOOK at my photo, name, and my ticket. And search they did—up, down, and all around. Did I feel secure? Absolutely! Yet, all the hustle bustle that I have grown and become accustomed to at airports was gone. I was feeling lost—where is everybody?

I longed for all the excitement and people watching that I got from being at an airport. Yet today, that is all gone. Today, we have new and different lives than just a week ago. Because of the lack of flyers today, I was able to board an earlier flight. Again, at the gate, another recheck of credentials and right to the aircraft, no waiting. Yet, the disturbing part of this was that there was almost no one on this flight. That’s correct, the plane is… less than one-third full.

After boarding the aircraft, I walked to the aft section of the aircraft where I found five flight attendants engaged in a conversation. I took time to tell them how thankful I am for what they do in their careers as flight attendants. I thanked them for their service in the past, the service they will provide today, and the service they will provide some customer tomorrow. Yet, they, like us, are scared. Scared that their jobs and families will be affected by the traveling public not being receptive to getting back on an aircraft.

The visions are still there and will forever be etched in my memory. I will never forget that in a matter of moments, over 3000 lives were lost and millions of people were affected. I will never forget that my life overnight is now changed. I will never forget the scene of both aircraft impacting the World Trade Centers. I will never forget my older sister calling me and telling me that my 82-year-old Dad, right in the middle of blessing the food at Saturday dinner, broke down and cried for all those who have suffered.

So, I am reminded of a quote that goes like this—“Heroes and cowards FEEL exactly the same fear, it’s how they react to it that makes the difference.” Now, I am not saying that those who choose not to fly right now are cowards, of course not. Yet, let the quote sink in for a moment. We all are feeling the same things, we all feel scared, we all feel somewhat displaced.

The terrorists knew what our reactions would be, they knew that our pilots would leave the cockpit to help the flight attendants and passengers, and they knew the American public would not want to fly anymore. They’re betting on us laying down and sticking our heads in the sand. We, as Americans, need to take a stand. Let’s let President Bush and the armed forces do what they need to do abroad. Here in the States, we need to support our airlines, our security forces. We need to get back in the planes and fill em’ up, we need to continue to invest and make purchases, and we need to get back in the swing of things to support our country and economy.

Still scared? So am I. Yet it is my choice to let those terrorists know that they will not rule me or My Country. I made the choice today to get on that plane, with a huge amount of emotions and feelings for the millions of Americans who have been affected by this tragedy.

So, become a hero in a small little way. If it’s making a small investment in the stock market, or making that purchase you’ve been holding back on, buying an airline ticket (or keeping an already-made reservation), or just supporting someone that needs a friend or a listening ear, we can all do small things that when added up, will make a huge difference.

When taking my seat on my flight, you might ask me—did I replay the vision of those planes? Yes! Yet, my filling that one seat on a one-hour flight was a small way of telling the terrorists I will not give in, I will not give up, and I will take a stand as an American who honors and loves what we are all about and what we stand for.

Today, my choice counted: America (1), Terrorists (0).

We still have a long way to go…


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