The travel industry hasn't returned to the activity levels of pre-September 11, 2001, but it has recovered in so many ways. In the big picture, despite the ongoing challenges, the industry is thriving.
September 11, 2012, was just an ordinary day.
And, that was the beauty of it.
At Sarasota Bradenton Airport in the morning, the TSA agent is cheery, greeting everyone in the security lane with a hello and a smile.
Noticing my New Jersey driver’s license, the agent volunteers that she’s originally from Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.
“My brother moved down here and we all followed,” she offers.
Then and now
Yes, there are differences from back then.
You take off your sneakers and belt, and dump them into a gray container.
There are a lot more carry-on bags now because the airline-fee frenzy came later.
You march, dressed, into a naked scanner — one of those millimeter wave scanners — and raise your palms above your head as if you are about to break into a ballet. And, the radiation zaps you as the glass doors squeeze shut.
Oops, the TSA agent flags you for a major hair gel transgression in your bag. Got to chuck it. That tube is way more than the 3.4-ounce limit. You should have remembered, Mr. slick travel-writer.
Flags and remembrances
Earlier this morning, @forfeng, aka Heather Turner, a graphic designer and hospitality consultant in Connecticut, joins untold numbers of others weighing in on Twitter, Facebook or their other social network of choice.
@forfeng tweets: “We will never forget. We still have a flag outside our house and always will.”
Back then, even some of us who weren’t used to it, felt a surge of patriotism, oh-my god, even at the sight of George Bush warning Al Quaeda that we were going to come and get you.
On Sunday night on 60 Minutes, “Mark Owen,” the special forces guy who was No. 2 going up the stairs, offered that Osama got whacked when he stuck his head out the door. It wasn’t an assassination mission, but bin Laden got plenty of more lead as he lay on the floor, his weapons elsewhere in the room, the rogue author’s account goes.
The Republic Airways flight to Washington-Reagan is dream-like. Bright blue skies and white, streaming clouds which seemingly weigh nothing and float past the aircraft’s wings.
In the terminal, the joint is jumping. The bar/restaurants are full with people having drinks and watching TV as they wait for their flights.
Next stop LaGuardia
As I take off on the US Airways Shuttle from Washington-Reagan toward LaGuardia, the U.S. Capitol pops up on the right side of the Airbus A319.
You practically do a flyover of the Washington Monument, and below the aircraft, over the brackish green waters of the Potomac, you see the jet’s shadow perfectly trailing along.
Is it the shadow of something else following along, too?
The flight to LaGuardia is uneventful. You put your phone into airplane mode and glance at Foursquare.
Kevin May has checked into Sainsburys, Patrick Landman is at Dehesa Santa Maria Aeroport de Barelona-El Prat, Jacy Riedman must be catching up on some reading at Nebraska Bookstore, and Krista Pappas is at Gold’s Gym, where she says she’s “getting some needed strength for the gym at lunch today from #KYAK, woot.”
Coke it is
The only out-of-the-ordinary thing that happens on the flight to LaGuardia is that the lady next to me in the aisle seat has her Coke Zero erupt on the tray, spilling the soda all over.
“Weird that it didn’t explode right away when I opened it up, but it happened a few seconds later,” she says.
As we begin the descent into LaGuardia, we pass over Toys R Us on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, and then view manicured ballfields, and soccer fields with patches of dirt.
Over Queens, I can see what seems like acres of tombstones, lined up like grayish bristles on a hair brush. Sometimes Queens seems like the cemetery capital of the world.
I glance toward the ground to the neat rows of houses, apartments and greenery below, and that shadow of the aircraft that was so evident in the departure out of Washington-Reagan, is now long gone.
Or, is it?
At LaGuardia, you seen planes taking off and plenty of others at the gates.
On the ground, they are all there: United, US Airways, AirTran, Air Canada, Southwest.
The US Airways Shuttle comes to a halt.
I can finally power up my phone again.
When I do, it says something very simple: “Tuesday, September 11.”
Just an ordinary day in the air.