Archive for Thursday, April 4, 2002

Traveling, patriotism share unlikely bond

April 4, 2002

A vacation can be a wonderful thing.

Time off can medicate the stressed and tired worker suffering the symptoms of fatigue. But in these times, taking a vacation in the "post-Sept. 11" world can be almost as stressful as the work from which workers try to get away.

Last week, the higher powers at The De Soto Explorer granted me a brief hiatus. So, the bags were packed, the tickets were ordered and with my girlfriend, Amy, in tow, I headed off to stay with friends in Chicago.

Of course, I expected security would be tight at Kansas City International Airport, and I wasn't disappointed. There was a fatigue-clad military presence at the airport that before last fall I would have associated with a Latin American junta. I was glad to see them keeping a watchful eye on the travelers. Although I had no problems going through the metal detector, having all of my bags' contents X-rayed and being carefully scrutinized by airport security, my girlfriend's travel wear was not so stealth. Apparently, the type of shoes she wore had nails in them, connecting the heels to their soles. The metal of the nails was just enough to set off the metal detector. She was not alone. Behind her, three other young women wearing the same type of shoe waited in their socks as security checked for potential weapons of destruction. I'm sure Amy's 5-foot 2-inch height and teased hair only helped make her look like a menacing terrorist, but she managed to be released to join me for the remainder of the trip.

Coming home, the checkpoint security process wasn't much different at Chicago's Midway Airport, although the larger quantity of travelers prompted even more scrutiny and individual checkpoints. As we stood in the slowly moving lines, my thoughts reflected to the events of the last six-plus months since the tragedy now simply known as 9-11.

I thought about what it must have been like for the passengers of those planes. Some were heading to and from vacations, others traveling for work, maybe some were visiting family members. Within hours, their lives and deaths changed our way of life forever.

Their murders showed us safety can be an illusion; there's always a chance of vulnerability. Their deaths helped us realize a need for greater security.

In a way, their deaths helped pave the way for something as trivial as my brief getaway. They helped make my travel safer and helped me gain even more gratitude for the freedom we have as Americans.

There is a sense of patriotic confidence that comes with stepping out and saying, "I will not be afraid." There is a hint of boldness in anyone who dares brave the threat of danger and continue on with the American way of life. I felt pride for all travelers who were making the effort to get back to a "normal" way of life, which has a very different connotation than it did six months ago.

Sure, a vacation may be nothing that changes the world. Then again, there were four flights in September 2001 that showed us differently, and in turn made me realize just how happy I really am to be called an American.

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