September 11, 2011
If you have a living memory of this day ten years ago, it is a day you will never forget. The atrocities, the suffering, the heroism and the long-lasting impact of September 11th have forever marked our world’s landscape.
It was also the day that air travel changed. Forever.
For anyone who has had to nearly disrobe at security, suffer the scrutinizing scorn of a guard who thinks your ten-year-old might be hiding something under his hat or feel the pervasive insecurity of being airborne for, you hope, the entire flight, the wave of terror still rings in our ears.
You may have watched the tributes, read the decade-later stories or even attended a commemorative service today. But one thing I would like to mention is that humanity lives on — even in the face of such inhumane events.
When my son boarded a United Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Chicago recently, he proudly wore his pilot’s hat. The stewardess suggested we meet the captain at the end of the flight. I thought perhaps he would come out of the cockpit and meet us in the safety of the jetway. But no, he invited us into the cockpit itself. I got to take a picture of my son sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. I even was allowed to flip a few switches to which the pilot mock-yelled “Don’t touch that one!” after I had. I jumped a foot in the air (which is hard to do in the confines of a cockpit). He was as kind as could be and even though we had under sixty minutes to meet our connection to Munich, I took the time because I wasn’t sure if my son would ever get to live in a world that allowed this again.
The kindness of the United Airlines folks goes further. Because a gate crew member reminded my husband that his frequent flyer miles had not yet been recorded, Husband asked for the crew to record his miles at the gate in Chicago. And from that request came another offer, this time from Lufthansa (our connecting airline): a free upgrade to Business Class, which Husband graciously offered to me.
Kindness goes around and around, from the ground crew to the air crew to the next one at O’Hare.
There is humanity in this world, even at airports and on airplanes. Terror has no place where love can grow so beautifully. And it can grow anywhere. Even in a cockpit four feet wide.