Less than one week after 9/11 I was in a plane heading to Skopje, Macedonia. I was participating to a media research trip covering OSCE efforts to mediate the inter-ethnic conflict in the area. It was an unusually quiet trip, without too much chatting or jokes, excepts a very inadequate remark of a member of the group wondering how you can hijack a plane with a plastic knife. No one paid him any second of attention and the silence continued till we arrived at Skopje. The tensions were boiling in the Balkans again and the international wisdom was requested to process fast and correctly a lot of unknown.
To be honest, I still cannot grasp what happened in that mid-September. I remember my reaction when I first saw at CNN – at the time I used to watch TV even when I was sleeping – the first plane breaking into the WTC. I’d called a local correspondent who was still sleeping and took my question as a bad joke. No, I was not the one making bad jokes, it was another one of those historical situations when something unusually bad puts the world into motion. When late in the day I saw the manifestations of happiness on some Middle Eastern streets I realized that in fact, the bad was in the air for a long time, maybe for decades if we remember the stories about hijacked planes in the 70s, but it took longer to realize the dangers. Once again, in the middle of our Western hi-tech civilization, some maniacs were decided to destroy everything with the raw force of the cavemen.
A couple of months and many other flights after the tragic September I was going to the States for a longer stay. More facts surfaced since then and at least a basic story about what happened was readable. It was and still is hard to understand ‘why’? Somehow, I promise myself to refuse thinking about the answer, but rather to think about how it could be possible to avoid such outbursts of hate.
I was very happy to be in the States and even t of some family and friends that I must be more careful than usual, I fully enjoy my time. After all, in another one of those wonderful surprises of my lifetime, I was exactly where I wanted to be and I was fully living my American dream. But I was constantly afraid: of the people flying in the same place with me; of some lenient security man who maybe did not check properly the person in the front of me; of the guy eating his hamburger in the corner – who knows what he is plotting while he is chewing his fast-food? I was so happy to find out that my plane from LA to NYC returned back after 5 minutes only because of a technical problem, and not because some suspect package was found out. I was grateful that it was an engineering problem and not another human stupidity. I did not care to walk the streets of Bronx on my own on a Sunday morning, with a map on my hand, or to spend time in the suburbs of New Orleans, but every time I was about to go in a plane, I scanned the people around as a scared animal.
I was very unhappy to realize that, at a certain extent, those maniacs succeeded to make us, and especially the brave me, fear. People like them living to hate and destroy everything beautiful for the sake of some divine justice they will rejoice in their afterlife. When one decides to kill people just for making their entrance in the hall of fame of history it is sick, very sick. Teaching your children do be proud of you and follow your example, is even sicker and one must be even more sick to find a good excuse for such a behaviour.
During my stay in the States, the fear was always in the back of my head. I did not know what and when to expect and every time I was boarding a plane – the easiest way to commute from a part to another of this huge country – I was anxious. That anxiety survived all my successful and intensive trips since then. I will always prefer to fly with a company with the highest security and safety credentials. I don’t mumble and protest against security checking because I know that I don’t have to worry afterwards. I don’t have nothing to hide and I want so much to travel safe and arrive alive! As simple as that! Very often I wonder why too many people are getting very angry against the increased surveillance and security screening but not against the perpetrators of terrorism and even support sometimes individuals with hate speech records. Perhaps they don’t know too much about their idols or assumed role models, this could be their only excuse.
However, nothing will stop my passion for travel, with or without my anxious outbursts. The more I travel the more I realize how important is to share the beauty of the world. This could be a cure for hate and narrow-mindedness. I wish that all those hate intoxicated people will give up their obsessions and will rather open a travel book and decide to understand the world.