I just looked at the calendar and realized that tomorrow is September 11. Nine years ago, that would have only meant that I was seven days closer to my birthday. All of that changed on a beautiful late summer morning, and now, I dread looking at the September calendar. I keep wanting September 11 to be just another day, but it is too soon for that.
However, over the last nine years, we have learned that life does go on. Some days dawn as brilliantly beautiful as that September morning in 2001, and some days are gray all day. One of the benefits of being an old fogey who has unfortunately lived through his share of traumatic days is the knowledge that life will go on. After John Kennedy’s assassination, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, and the Challenger explosion, life went on. We move ahead. We smile again. We laugh again. And yes, we even cry again. But, we don't forget.
We can never forget, as much as we would want. And the most fleeting stimulus will take us back to one of those days. Seeing footage of President Kennedy waving from his limousine moments before we lost our innocence or hearing a recording of those words, “Challenger, you are clear for throttle up” is all it takes to bring a tear to my eye. It’s been harder to avoid those stimuli with the aftermath of 9/11, especially for those of us in the industry because not only are there emotional issues, 9/11 changed the way we do our jobs. On our Employee blog today, we have a post from one of our Flight Attendants, who at the time worked for one of the airlines who lost an airplane on 9/11. She had been scheduled to take one of those flights, but was switched to another at the last moment. Her account took me back to the uncertainty and horror of that beautiful summer morning. One of the Employees who commented on the post also worked for her airline, and he had two friends that were cleared on the flight as standbys at the last minute.
Like the Kennedy assassination which stole the innocence of a society that knew it could accomplish great things, 9/11 destroyed the innocence of the way that air travel unites people across space and cultures. While the innocence has been destroyed, the ability to unite time, distance, and especially cultures is more important than ever.
We were able to move ahead, smile and laugh again thanks to those of you who stepped back on an airplane on September 14 and the millions and millions of air travelers over the nine years since who have demonstrated their resolve to overcome not only time and distance, but the closed minds of a handful of individuals for whom tolerance and understanding are meaningless.
Next year will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and it will be a big event. But we don’t need to wait a year to remember those folks who were just going about their daily activities whether it was going to their office or catching/working a flight to the coast. We honor the many, many heroes who gave their all so that others would see other September 11ths. And, we contemplate our own mortality and the fickleness of fate that might move one of us from danger while moving others into harm's way.