Ten Years Later

by brian on September 1, 2011

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
— Mark Twain

I remember flying 6 months after 9/11 to London, with my mom nonetheless. I just remember sitting in my aisle seat and thinking that if anything happens, we are about to rumble in the aisles.

Homeland Security. Transportation Security Administration. Two of the most common agencies in travel and probably known throughout the world did not exist before 9/11. Hard to believe since they feel like they have been there all the time.

We’ve had all the dust-ups wth invasive scanners, and TSA agents “groping” passengers. People screaming their civil liberties/privacy are being violated. Some just shrug and go with the flow. Some of it justified. Who is right? They all are. I just want to get to my destination and that is what I focus on.

September 11 made me want to travel more. Even after the Shoe Bomber and the Underwear Bomber. These guys sound like badly named villians from a comic book. But they were very real. They were able to get on the planes. Which forced the rest of us to have to go through the extensive patdown and taking off our shoes.

Flight attendants are learning karate. Pilots are carrying guns. Metal eating utensils are removed from flights.

Your favorite airline nearly didn’t survive 9/11. Hence we have a fee for everything, from checked luggage to $7 boxed meals (and I use the word meals loosely), to even talking to an airline rep on the phone to book a flight. The worst offenders (RyanAir and SpiritAir, I’m looking at you) are still flying and not having a problem filling planes. Presumably the lower airfares are still bringing customers and then the airlines taqg you with the extra fees to make up more revenue.

I’ve did most of my travel in my life in the past 5 years. Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Western Europe, Costa Rica, on and on.. I didn’t let 9/11 stop me from traveling.

I also didn’t let 9/11 let me paint a whole group of people with the same broad strokes that the hijackers used to paint Americans. I enjoyed my time in Egypt. 9/11 was on my mind but it wasn’t. I was more interested in seeing the Great Pyramids. I was more interested in talking to the shopkeepers who passionately told me that the vast majority of Egyptians did not feel the way the hijackers did. The cynical New Yorker in me could look at as a way to get me to buy another Egyptian rug or papyrus paper.

But I went anyway. And I travel because I did not want my only perception of a place or people to be from new media, whether that is CNN, FOX or Al Jazeera. The only way to really make INFORMED decisions about the world is to visit. Talk. Listen.

There will be all kinds of retrospectives on 9/11. Beyond all the social, economic and political reasons for the initial attacks and the ramifications, what does 9/11 mean to you on a personal level. For me it can summed up in two lines:

Live Life to the fullest now.

Make the decision to travel then travel to make decisions about your life and formulate educated opinions about the world around you.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sithonia Greece September 9, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying here! Out of principle I want to travel as cheap as I can. And I hate the stereotyping of countries so often being done in the media. Travel with an open mind. The fact that some cultures are different than yours doesn’t make it wrong or weird – just different. And those differences make travel so much more interesting!

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brian September 10, 2011 at 10:53 AM

I think a traveler has to have a certain mindset to be open to new things. Many people are just not willing to do that. That is sad.

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Dave and Deb September 12, 2011 at 4:14 AM

Well said Brian and so eloquently written. It is difficult to put the aftermath of 9/11 into words and you did a beautiful job. Travel opens people’s eyes and Mark Twain’s quote does sum it all up perfectly.
Interesting, I didn’t realize that Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration didn’t exist before 2001. How the world has changed so rapidly.

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brian September 13, 2011 at 9:31 PM

I know hard to believe that the TSA didn’t exist 10 years ago. There is still a need for it, but think the problem is coming to the proper balance of privacy and safety for travelers. Difficult questions for everyone involved.

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