Shortly after graduation from college I was offered a job with a company that tests and analyzes our nations many smokestacks for various types of air pollutants. At first I was hesitant of accepting the job because I very afraid of working around heights which the job required. I decided to give it a shot. For the next two years I spent my time on the stacks of some of our countries larges coal fired power plants and waste incinerators. When I was not working on a smokestack I typically spent my time in airports and on airplanes traveling from east coast to west coast and all places in between.
On the early morning of September 10, 2001 I boarded a 6:00 AM flight from Chicago O’Hare International airport bound for Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I got on the airplane with little concern other than other than taking a nap as soon as I found my seat. Little did I know that in approximately 24 hours the normal business of air travel would be changed forever? The events of September 11, 2001 unfolded like a nightmare for everyone. I cannot begin to imagine the fear in the passengers on those four airplanes and the fear in people in the buildings that were hit. Air travel was suspended indefinitely, and people were living in a state constant of fear of what would happen next. There were no planes in the air for a few days, which seemed very strange because we were working near the airport that week, and had grown accustomed to planes constantly flying over as we worked on the stack. When flights resumed and I headed back to Chicago there was hardly anybody on the airplane. People were afraid and so was I.
Over time things seem to get back to normal in the travel business, but normal was different than it was before. Now normal meant long lines, increased security, increased flight delays, and different colors of travel alert levels (I’m still not sure what any of those mean?). All of a sudden getting on an airplane for a cross-country work trip or vacation was not as convenient. I boarded airplanes I had other concerns running through my mind. I had become afraid flying just as I had been of stacks before.
I believe that the only way to manage such a fear is to give it a shot, and resume traveling as we once did before. There will continue to be the long lines and increased security, but I also believe air travel can and will get better. The long lines will not seem so long anymore and the security will not seem to be so much of a hassle. I now work in an office and don’t do much flying anymore. I believe that next time I board an airplane at 6:00 AM I will be concerned with finding my seat and taking a nap. When I climbed my first stack I was just a green kid and fearful of the unknown. Now that I’ve tried it and made it through uninjured I know that it’s safe. I believe that this experience that has changed my life and allowed me to put my fears into perspective, and realize that many fears are just that.
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