Flying on 9/11

I fly twice today on the dreaded date (It’s already 9/11 in England, despite what the post time says above), from London to Chicago and then on to San Francisco. I’ve had this routing and schedule before and was sad to see that there are more unsold seats today than usual.

I didn’t book on this date to make a point, but because 9/11 happened to fall on the day when I want to travel. Everyone who doesn’t fly today who wants to or needs to is giving something up. Granted, on the individual level the losses are usually small, one less day with loved ones here, one less day of vacation there. But collectively, the loss is larger than those infuriating lines in front of the security scanners at our museums. Ten years on, too many of us are still giving in and giving up and we can’t keep doing that and consider ourselves a free people.

As they say over here: Keep calm and carry on.

and p.s. today could be a good date to get a better deal on your airfare.

FOOTNOTE: As I changed planes in O’Hare airport, an airline employee came to the ticket desk, picked up the microphone and belted out a soaring rendition of the national anthem. A silent crowd gathered and then erupted in applause at the end…a wonderful tonic that overcame whatever anxieties the travelers carried with them.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

8 thoughts on “Flying on 9/11”

  1. I’ll be flying (tomorrow, 9/11), not to make a point, but to get to work. I’m not looking forward to it, because I expect the security theater to be even more ridiculous than it already is. Other than that, it’s just another flight.

  2. Pleasant journey Hans, and thanks for cuing me to note above that I am flying on 9/11 as well (I guess our time stamp is insensitive to the location of the poster).

  3. Last year I had a flight on 9/11. I booked way in advance and didn’t actually even realize the significance until a few days before my trip. And I have to say, it is absolutely the best day to fly. The airports were less crowded, the lines were shorter, and everything just went a little more smoothly, and I didn’t notice any heightened security. (That could be different this year, since nobody cares too much about a 9th anniversary.)

    Bad for the economy, definitely, but a much more pleasant trip altogether.

  4. I recall flying to San Francisco for a Battlebots tournament, just a few days after 9-11. My several hundred pounds of tools, robot, and assorted equipment wound up being sent through a fancy scanner, which amused me no end given my awareness that I could have converted it into an incendiary bomb (Lithium batteries and titanium armor…) with a few programming changes and minor alterations to the wiring, and no scanner would have noticed the differences. But, hey, at least it would have picked up conventional explosives, so it wasn’t a total waste of effort on their part.

    When I got there the single solder standing guard at the Bay bridge struck me as rather less sensible; What was he looking for, I (heart) Osama bumper stickers? Like he’d even have noticed a truck bomb driving onto the bridge, let alone been able to do something about it.

    So much security theater since, it boggles the mind. All nominally aimed at preventing a mode of attack which became infeasible the moment people were aware that a hijacking didn’t mean an exotic vacation anymore, and stopped heeding the standard advice to just let it happen. But really just aimed at convincing the credulous that Something Was Being Done, by making their lives miserable when they fly.

    But, yes, if you don’t mind the heightened theater, it can be convenient flying on September 11th.

  5. By the way, I’d probably find the theater less offensive, if it hadn’t been coupled with a deliberate failure to institute real security in many respects. Such as the deliberate sabotage of the armed pilots program.

  6. Update: At O’Hare Airport now..very quiet. I asked the TSA guy who scanned me and he said it had been light all day. However, Harold Pollack is said to be near the airport, creating a state of heightened alert.

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