It has been three months since I have flown on United Airlines—it seems like yesterday that I was running for my connection in SFO—but today I took to the air again, flying from Los Angeles to Newark. In the dozen years since the 9/11 attacks, I have never had opportunity to travel on 9/11 and I was curious if the experience would be any different on this day.
It was not. And that is a good thing.
Same airport check-in at LAX with United agents not acknowledging me while using the kiosk to print my boarding pass. Same TSA barking orders about pulling laptops out of bags and throwing out water bottles for those without PreCheck. Same United Club staff who have trouble swiping my SAS Gold card to get me into the lounge. No added security at the gate or signs of nervousness from a full 757 flight. A small mechanical delay followed by a 1.5hr ATC delay due to poor weather in Newark. A so-so crew that was polite, but not overly friendly. A perfectly suitable dinner from a menu that has not changed since the merger. No special announcement, no moment of silence. One mechanic was wearing a 9/11 shirt issued by United in 2002, but that was it.
In short, it was a typical day of travel on United. That heartens me because it suggests we may finally be moving on from the mourning and instead looking forward, the topic of my 9/11 post two years ago.
As a war weary America breathes a collective sigh of relief that another Middle East conflict has been at least temporarily averted, we are faced with the question of how to properly reflect on the horror of the largest single attack on American history, yet move on with our lives…not to forget the memory of those who were lost but at the same time not to hand terrorists their primary objective, an infliction of sustained fear such that our way of life is forever disrupted.
The consequences of 9/11 are still brutally apparent, the blue-sleeved clerks administering airport security the biggest visible reminder, but America is moving in a different direction—we need not let this attack define us or control our actions. The politics of fear, I sense, is starting to lose its hold.