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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

Have the terrorists won?

As the tragic events of September 11 continue to unfold I've caught myself wondering if evil has triumphed. Have the terrorists won? Or is this just a temporary setback?

Lets face facts; the airline industry is on the verge of collapse. Continental Airlines announced they would furlough 12,000 employees. U.S. Air will layoff 11,000 and Midway Air went out of business. Other major carriers will announce layoffs by press time and just about every airline is flying at 80 percent of pre-attack levels. Congress is about to approve a $15 billion bailout package for the airlines just so they can stay in business. That money won't even come close to helping minimum wage workers at airport concession stands, skycaps and parking attendants just to name a few. The ripple effect is also being felt by the tourism industry both at home and abroad. Worldwide, tourism is a $460 billion a year industry.

According to the World Tourism Organization, money spent by tourist is the main source of income for almost 40 percent of the world's countries. Translation, hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work. Hundreds of thousands of foreign tour operators will also be out of work. Our collective fears in the wake of attacks on two of America's premiere institutions will plummet our economy and the world economy into a recession, the likes of which we haven't experienced since the early 1970's or maybe the stock market crash of 1929. Does this sound alarmist, probably? But it could take awhile before any noticeable signs of life are pumped back into the tourism and travel industry.

Travelers are canceling or delaying vacation plans in record numbers. Businesses are allowing employees traumatized by these despicable acts of terrorism to stay at home. It's time for Americans to standup and act like Americans.

The savages who perpetrated these unimaginable acts of violence on our people will eventually pay for their deeds. We as Americans should not allow ourselves to be intimidated. Unfortunately, dealing with our fears and emotions starts with those of us in the newsgathering business. That's right it starts with you. Journalists are the eyes and ears of the American public and whether you want to admit it or not, people in this country take their cues from what you report. Indirectly, your reporting will fan the fears of flying or instill confidence in the safety of air travel.

If any good can come out of this tragedy, then the increased security at the nation's airports should help put us at ease. Does it take longer to check-in? Absolutely! Does it make sense that we can no longer park on airport grounds or escort loved ones to the departure gate? How about hand searches of our bags and purses or the removal of sharp items from airport concessions, does that seem excessive? Several of these tougher security measures are standard practice in many countries around the world. Have you ever heard of an Israeli flight on El Al being hijacked in the past 25 plus years? I'll answer that for you, NO. Armed sky marshals are just part of what makes El Al the safest airline in the world. If you've traveled to Europe and Asia, you've probably noticed that government agencies assume the responsibility for safety and security at their airports and on their airlines, a practice that should have started in this country years ago. Here's another one for you. How many of you have noticed the cockpit door opening and closing during domestic flights? You won't find that on El Al either. Cockpit doors on their flights remain closed for the duration of the flight regardless of what's happening in the cabin, and that includes acts of terrorism.

Gone are the days when the oceans protect us from terrorism. We should embrace longer security checks and delays associated with protecting the general public. These delays won't last forever. As the airline industry adjusts to stricter security requirements they will work out procedures to get passengers from point A to point B quicker. But I don't want to sacrifice speed and comfort for security. After all, the objective of the airline industry is to get us to our destinations safely.

You as journalists should hold our elected leaders, the airline industry, government agencies and any other organization charged with public safety, accountable for protecting the nation's skies. Journalists must remain ever vigilant in reporting the success and failure of new guidelines and procedures. Report on air safety with as much enthusiasm as some did in chasing down Gary Condit. While we remain traumatized by the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history, the greatest economy the world has ever known is taking a beating. The sad truth of the matter is we are doing it to ourselves. I don't want to minimize the tragedy of the 5,000 Americans who lost their lives. But we will do more harm to the memory of our lost loved ones if we let these barbaric acts of terrorism bring down the American way of life. Now's not the time to become isolationists when it comes to travel. Air travel, despite all that's happened is still the safest means of transportation.

I don't want Osama Bin Laden or any other foolish terrorist destroying my God given right to travel, work and pursue the American dream. Future generations will loose out on some of the most culturally rewarding experiences life has to offer if we allow terrorists to ruin our adventurous spirit and force us to stay at home. Don't let terrorism win.