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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to Michaelbman2002@netzero.com

The Aftermath of 9-11


The horrific events of September 11, 2001 have left an indelible impression that will live in our collective psyche forever. Over the next few weeks we will bury those who lost their lives to such barbaric acts of terrorism. On some level the United States will reach out and punish those responsible and we will try to gain a sense of normalcy and order once again. As journalists you have responded and performed yeomanís work given the difficult circumstances in which you operate.

But things will never be as they once were, especially when it comes to flying. Once things settle and youíre able to grasp the magnitude of what youíve been covering, many of you will have a very real and understandable fear of flying. That fear will be exacerbated as the United States responds militarily to this attack. Will our enemies retaliate? If they donít retaliate it wonít be for a lack of trying. Increased security at that nationís airports will do nothing to alleviate those fears. Gone are the days of curbside baggage check-in or escorting a loved one directly to the gate before departure. Car searches, restricted parking, and identification checks are just some of the many new, and necessary restrictions to make air travel safe. All of these changes will serve as a constant reminder of the tragic events in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. I urge you to take comfort in these changes rather than fear them.

No matter how many statistics you see on the safety of air travel over the next few days, none of it will help you cope with the emotional pull caused by this tragedy. Your logic, reasoning and rational mind will give way to your emotions and the terrible images of planes used as weapons.

According to Dr. John Tassey, a psychologist at the VA Hospital in Oklahoma City, and a member of that cityís response to bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, people exposed to traumatic situations need to recognize that they may experience periods of abnormal behavior. That behavior could include heightened anxiety or emotional numbing. Certainly most journalists will feel emotional numbing as a means to accomplish the gruesome task of reporting this story.

Dr. Tassey says these reactions are entirely normal. Itís important to let other people know how youíre feeling. This is not the time to be hero reporters trying to hide your emotions in the interest of getting the story. Talking will help the psychological healing process. Fellow journalists, family members and clergy can offer comfort and reassurance. If none of this works, seek professional help. I strongly urge all newsrooms to make counseling available to my fellow journalists. Reporters are the eyes and ears of the American public and your ability to perform will require all the strength you can muster.

When it comes to flying you may feel a heightened sense of anxiety for several years to come. This feeling of anxiety will be increased by what you perceive as a loss of control. Regardless of whether itís rational or not, the moment you saw those planes hit at Americasí heartland, your sense of control was lost. Unlike a car, once weíre on a plane control is transferred to others to include the pilot and the flight attendants. Once those doors are closely its no longer easy to just get up and leave. Itís important to recognize that you do have control over how you react and respond. Talk things out with fellow passengers and flight attendants. Try as best you can to focus on the many times youíve traveled in the past with absolutely no problem.

Some, if not all of you will be assessing the risk involved with flying. Journalists can gather statistics on the safety of flying at a moments notice. Resist the temptation to use those statistics to rationalize your fears. Flying is still the safest means of transportation. To combat this anxiety, I urge you to challenge your perceptions of reality. Tackle it head on and donít shy away from it.

This is the most difficult article Iíve ever written. I feel like Iím dispensing information to the most well informed group of people in the world. I remember from my days in television news, I would go out and cover a tragedy like it had no effect on my life. I would try to act invincible. It was only later, in the privacy of my home that I would confront and try to rationalize all that had happen. It was cathartic to talk things out with others. I only offer this advice as a means to remind you that we are all humans. Although we have jobs to do, we must not deny ourselves the opportunity to grieve or deal with our fears.

As a travel expert, I have spent the past several days fighting my own demons. I cannot detach myself, as hard as I try, without shedding a tear for the victims or getting angry at the cowardice of our attackers. I am a human being, a husband, a father and an American before Iím a travel expert and reporter. Itís ok to shed a tear, get angry or feel anxious as the nationís skies open to air travel once again. I cannot separate myself from who I am no more than I can erase the events of September 11, 2001 from my mind. . To deny myself these emotions is to deny who I am.

My initial knee-jerk reaction to this tragedy was a combination of shock, horror and fear. I spent the next few days talking about my fears with family and friends. I came to the realization that those cowardly bastards who perpetrated this attack would like nothing better than for me and you to stop flying. When the opportunity presents itself, I will be on the next plane to wherever I need to go with the knowledge and understanding that air travel is still the safest and quickest form of transportation on the planet.

 



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