Quite possibly. Very possibly. And why, you ask? Are you kidding?
Have you been to a major American or other Western airport on 9/11? The lines are shorter, but the screenings take longer, because they’re more thorough. There are fewer distractions. The music blaring from Duty-Free is turned down a bit; there isn’t the same raucous chatter from tour groups and families about to depart. Everyone is watching everyone else.
The pilots and flight attendants are more vigilant. Passengers don’t leave bags unattended for five seconds (much less a couple minutes) to recheck their boarding time on the screen. There’s a subtle, but depressing and deadened hush from gate to gate, from terminal to terminal. Planes are triple-checked instead of double-checked. Air traffic controllers watch every move on their monitors and across the sky as if their lives depended on it.
Which to me, at least, all suggests that 9/11 may in fact be the safest day of the entire year to get on an airplane — at least in the West, and at any number of other areas scarred by a terror attack.
But would you care to fly on 9/11? My guess is no.
As we approach the 12th anniversary of 9/11, it’s worth taking a brief look at what’s happened at airports and on airplanes, both in terms of safety and security. Besides a couple of terrifying near-misses involving a shoe bomb and liquid gels, there hasn’t been a major incident or threat. Newer security measures (which are now years old) border on knee-jerk reactions (no one had to remove their shoes before Richard Reid’s threat; no one had a problem with our jug of water until the scare with the bottles of chemicals onboard).
It’s impossible to say if terrorists want an encore of a certain tragedy to drive their message home. From what I’ve observed, they usually move on to some other tactic once they’re successful at a particular “mission.” Take the World Trade Center, for example: after some unsuccessful tries to bring it down, the jihadists accomplished their “mission” and moved on to… well, a variety of other things. Embassies will always remain vulnerable targets. Car bombings are smaller-scale, but accomplish the same basic “goal.”
To me, the people that seem most scared — and maybe rightfully so — are the ones with the Eurail or Amtrak passes. I need to glance through my own travel anxiety book every time I get on a train now. Of course I’m scared. Isn’t everyone?
Will I be flying on 9/11 this year? No, because it’s still a little too hot in Turkey during the first half of September. I’ve given myself a good reason (excuse?) to fly on the less auspicious date of 9/26 instead.
Will you be flying on 9/11 this year? Maybe not, since it’s coming up fast, you might have other plans, and it still holds that sickening power of imagination and dread over us. But would you consider doing so in the future? You might. From my look around during the last 9/11, it seems about as safe as you can get, and your courage — and indifference to the date — flies right in the face of what every jihadist most wants.
It’s 9/11. Am I all alone in here?