As I step on the plane — a week before the tenth anniversary of September 11th — I silently send a prayer to God for safety. Admittedly, I’m not one to pray regularly, but every time I’ve located my airplane seat and fasten my safety belt, this short plea is always my next step in preparing for takeoff.
I’m doing more than praying, though. I’m thinking: I snuck on a bottle of soap, but what threat might the man sitting next to me pose?
Sit down and ignore everybody else. Act normal. Refrain from paranoia. Most of all, don’t think about September 11th.
I scan the people around me. This is no longer an idle curiosity, but a matter of personal security I can’t completely ignore.
I put on my headphones and continue to scan the faces filling the rows. Passengers file down the narrow pathways to take their seats, but a shorter Eastern European woman makes her way against the traffic back to the front. She extends her left hand above her head, clutching a garment bag with dresses on several hangers.
Approaching the flight attendant, she asks, in a thick accent, “Where can I hang my clothes?”
I pause my music to listen. The attendant responds that the plane doesn’t have a closet, and she will need to lay the bundle flat in an overhead bin.
She wants to use the empty hangers on the wall behind the last row in first class. The flight attendant again strictly denies her, citing FDA regulations even after a North Carolinian blonde in the second row offers to hang it for her as if it were her own. The woman begins to yell as a uniformed TSA officer boards the plane.
What will we do if this continues while we’re in the air?
He escorts her, crying and screaming, off the aircraft. Thank God we’re still on the ground.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, our country stood united by emotion. We like to remember the sympathy, patriotism, love, and to forget the anger, fear, and confusion. The crash brought us together, but it also drove us apart, weakening our trust and faith in one another.
Who might help, were an actual emergency to occur? Who would I turn to in my time of need? Would it be the North Carolinian woman, who had futilely offered the foreigner her own plastic hanger?
The attendant shuts the cabin door and, as we prepare for departure, drops the keywords “cooperation” and “assistance,” as if leading a team-building exercise.
I text my family the usual “About to take off, love you” before I let my compulsive need to prep myself for the survival of an 80-minute flight consume me.
My mom’s response is not one of faith in my fellow passengers but rather a reliance on someone more omniscient: “May God bless your trip!”
This trip will not end at the World Trade Center, and these passengers will stay calm. I turn up my music and try to ignore it all.