There are a number of reports appearing in the general media on the American public dealing with the aftereffects of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. People are calling in to talk shows, saying that they are still afraid to leave the house and be separated from their families. Some of these people live thousands of miles from the attack sites, and may not have known anyone hurt personally.

A number of things affect how a person reacts to such horrible events and the nonstop media coverage following them. There is no right or wrong way to react initially. But, as many experts tell us, we are each responsible for moving on and helping our children move on. If we don’t, then the terrorists’ mission was successful.

Here’s what that means to me.

70s Flashback

Remember the terrorist activities around the world in the 1970s? That was the decade in which the term “skyjack” was coined. Remember the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich (West Germany, it was then), and the terrorist attack on the track-and-field team from Israel? Then there were the bombings and bomb threats in London’s Heathrow Airport, and the Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

I don’t recall anyone feeling particularly safe in those years, just because we lived in the United States. Skyjackings, assuredly, meant something other than they do now; but a bomb is a bomb (is a bomb). The traveling public and the airlines were nervous, and rightly so.

I started flying in 1976. My sister had married a guy in the Army the year before, and he was soon stationed overseas, in the Med-iterranean. (Nice honeymoon!) My parents wanted to visit them, but there wasn’t enough money for both of them to go, so they sent me alone. I was 14.

These days, my parents question their own judgment. But times were different; more innocent? Naïve? At any rate, I was to go and pay a visit of about six weeks the summer of 76.

My parents and I even discussed the likelihood that our backgrounds had been researched by some government agency before that passport was issued, since I would be visiting a U.S. Army base for a NATO nation. We accepted it as a strong probability.

The preparation for the trip required some trips to the mall. One such excursion sticks in my mind. Mom and I were shopping for clothes, and I had gone into a fitting room, where I got caught up in panic. What if something like a bomb threat happened at the airport, at JFK or overseas? (I was to fly from Detroit to New York and pass through U.S. Customs there.) I lost track of time; until…

…Mom came in. “Barbie, are you OK?” I said I was. “What the heck are you doing all this time?” I told her I was worrying about the trip.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, move it! My knees are killing me,” cried mom.

Lasting Impression

I’ve thought about that a lot these days. The terrorists of the 70s had some effect on me, although I didn’t know their victims. I was psyched. Mom snapped me out of it.

Later on she told me that the terrorists’ acts were horrible, but that a person can’t live their life ruled by fears generated by things that have already happened. It’s good to be cautious, but if it reaches the point of paralysis, then you lose your life, in a sense. You lose the things that could have been.

I went. It was one of those life-changing trips whose value cannot be estimated. I had to be responsible for myself as a traveler, too. I got to know all the flight attendants.

In September the terrorism reached our shores and skies. I don’t suppose many people hear planes flying overhead quite the same as they used to. And the grief over the human loss can hit even when you thought you were over it — but remember that grief and fear are different things.

You may not have the equivalent of my mom around you at this time. Don’t let the events of September 11 put your life on hold unnecessarily. Grieve as you need to, but don’t freeze up from fear. Mom’s knees just can’t take it.

Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She may be reached at 313-368-5856; 313-368-5857 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 10/15/2001