This summer, I was fortunate enough to travel somewhere only accessible by airplane.
I was nervous about entering a new country and waited diligently on the plane for my customs form. I was shocked a few hours later when it became apparent that this European country didn’t care one lick about customs forms.
Recovering from my initial shock, I practiced my speech over and over again, reciting why I was entering the country, where I would go, whom I was traveling with and anything else I could imagine – only once again to realize it didn’t matter. I could barely sputter out a feeble “hello” before my passport was stamped and I was on my way.
This was a drastic change from the long security process I traveled through to board the plane here in my own country.
And then it hit me.
We are a generation terrified of flying.
Every spot of turbulence reminded me of “Lost” and I start counting out my fellow island members.
Even worse, every nervous look from a flight attendant and extra security check brought me back to Sept. 11, 2001.
This isn’t to say I quake in terror when I remove my shoes or flinch at the slightest delayed flight, but rather that, even though I consider myself a reasonable person, I’m mistrustful of planes and elated at touchdown when we finally arrive.
I remember 9/11, the day when my fears commenced, as well as any third grade child would. I was confused, scared and shocked that people would want to hurt one another.
So I did the only thing that made sense at the time and projected my complicated fear on what was tangible: airplanes.
In my mind, the towers came down and horrified a nation because planes crashed into the buildings. People with malicious intentions were able to cause so much destruction because they were allowed on planes. My world was flipped upside down because of vessels in the sky.
Airplanes were real, visible and distracted me from any idea of hate as the root cause, an idea I refused to believe in my childish mind.
As I’ve grown older and we’ve all been able to reflect back upon the day that stopped so many Americans in front of their televisions, I’ve grown and realized planes weren’t the cause or the problem.
And yet, we still find ourselves with a fear of flying.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year more than 26 million Americans suffer from some form of flight anxiety.
This isn’t all because of 9/11, but it doesn’t lighten any anxieties to walk through strenuous security features implemented in the last 10 years.
Since that time, airport security started screening all baggage for explosives, controversial pat downs and full-body scanners became commonplace and watch lists were drafted.
As I boarded numerous planes this summer, the rational side of my brain and the irrational side of my brain were at war. I told myself my fears were irrational but that didn’t really stop my palms from sweating or my stomach from clenching at takeoff.
But now I realize my 8-year-old self took the wrong conclusion from that day. The problem doesn’t start with airplanes; it starts in misunderstanding one another.
We fight because we don’t agree with people who are different from us. We start war because it’s easier than finding neutral ground.
As I reflect back on that September morning 12 years later, I realize the lesson we all should learn is to love a little more.
Sure, it’s not that easy and it doesn’t boil down that simply. There were decades behind the attacks and a dozen people could give at least a dozen reasons why they happened.
But ultimately, we’re all people, we’re all trying to make our way in the world and we all want to do what we think is right.
Remember the tragedy, remember those who died, but remember to put hate in the background.
Love one another because in the end, we’re all we have.