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
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.