This is no tough-guy boast or irrational bragging or a rhetorical flourish. This is a simple, quiet statement of fact. We will fly again because our lives and our livelihoods depend on it. We will fly again because there is something deep in the American psyche, some distant distillation of Manifest Destiny, that compels us to travel and explore. By Joe Brancatelli We will fly again because, when you think about it, flying is the ultimate expression of our free society and everything we cherish. And we will fly again because that is exactly what the terrorists don’t want us to do.
The aim of terrorists is to frighten us and to get our attention. The goal of terrorism is to create havoc, inflict grievous bodily harm, destroy property and disrupt our economic security. The purpose of terror is to generate publicity for its cause.
Terrorism won all those battles Tuesday with their horrific hijackings and almost inconceivable use of passenger jets as weapons. There are no words to adequately describe the fear and the death and the havoc the terrorists have caused. Hundreds of our fellow flyers are dead and thousands more have died. The financial toll will be in the billions and our economic system will be shaken. Buildings are gone, lives are destroyed, and America will never be the same again.
But terrorism has still another goal: to change the pattern and the fabric of our daily lives. That is the war. Terrorists want to make us live our lives a different way because, if we change the way we live our daily lives, they win.
That is the war we cannot allow terrorism to win. That is why we will fly again.
Perhaps I use the word “we” too cavalierly. Because, no matter how well we know each other, I guess I have no right to speak for anyone but myself.
I flew on Sunday and am sitting at my laptop in a hotel room in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon because the airports were closed this morning and my flight was cancelled. But I will fly tomorrow if the airports are open and my flight is operating. I won’t let the terrorists tell me how to live my life, where I can go, and whether I can fly.
I am afraid, because you cannot see what you have seen on television these past 24 hours and not be afraid. I am angry, because I am a New Yorker and some lunatics have ripped a hole in my city. I am furious, because I am an American and these shadowy bastards have attacked my capital and my country. I am a frequent flyer, and these people have assaulted my life and my livelihood. I am despondent, because I have lost friends and acquaintances in this tragedy. And I am deep in mourning because there are no degrees of separation in this catastrophe. Anyone’s loss is my loss.
But I will fly again because I can’t imagine a world where terrorism wins this war.
You and I have been together in this little slice of cyberspace for almost four years now. On some levels, we have talked about all this many times before. About the fear and the doubt that we stuff at the bottom of our carry-on bag because this is what we do. About the lies we tell ourselves and our families about the danger. About the bravado we practice and the studious denials we adopt like armor to get us through another day, another flight, another tragedy.
I have written that every crash diminishes us. I have written that every one of us knows that we fly, and, sometimes, some of us die. But I have no snappy catchphrases as I sit here in a hotel room in San Francisco waiting to fly, wanting to fly, because I can’t think of any other way to tell the terrorists they may win some battles, but they cannot win the war.
In point of absolute fact, all I can tell you is what I know for myself: I will fly again. And all I can tell you is what I believe after four years of talking with you and swapping tales: We all will fly again.
Meanwhile, while we wait, go do something life affirming. Find your good book and search for comfort. Pray. Hug your friends and families. Cry if you must. Smile if you can. Remember our fellow flyers and the innocent New Yorkers and Washingtonians who died yesterday.
Me? I’m flying tomorrow. It’s not a boast or a brag or a rhetorical flourish. It’s a simple, quiet statement of fact.
This edition of Brancatelli on Business Travel originally appeared as a part of a regular series at http://www.biztravel.com. Copyright 2001, BizTravel.com, Inc. All rights reserved. This column was printed with permission.