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Cross Myself and Hope to Fly

Editorial: Bali Update's Editor Reflects on Taking a Flight on September 11th

(9/11/2006) 

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933


The heinous attacks launched by terrorists against the United States in 2001 form a defining moment in all our lives. Although now 5 years in the past, most people cannot fail to recall the specific details of what they were doing when they first heard the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the subsequent tragic incidents at the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside.

As the 5th anniversary of 9/11 approached, it occurred to me that I would be spending the anniversary of that fateful date on board a commercial airliner. Several hours after dispatching the Bali Update, I'll board a plane together with hundreds of others for a flight to Hong Kong, making a trusting leap of faith, similar to that made by those unfortunates who boarded 4 jets in America 5 years ago.

Few would argue that the world did not change fundamentally on September 11, 2001. We've all grown to grudgingly accept delays, interrogations and the irritation of humiliating inspections whenever we board mass transportation or attend any public event. This looming insecurity, ironically bred by a system of all-pervading security, has become part and parcel of daily life whether you live in New York, London, Madrid, Istanbul, Tokyo or Denpasar.

Recent ominous warnings issued by Al-Qaeda calling on the West to convert to Islam "before it's too late," and seen by some experts as foreshadowing another terrorist attack, can only add to the disquiet of the constant threat that follows each and every one us, everyday and everywhere we go.

Cavalier? Fearless? Or, Just Plain Foolhardy?

Given the state of the world, boarding a plane on any day, let alone September 11th, requires the quiet fortitude exhibited by all those who carry on with their daily activities in the "new normal." In fact, leaving the safe and familiar surroundings of home to travel anywhere in the world demands we all summon forth a mixture of resilience, cool combativeness and singular personal courage necessary to retain control of our live's in this modern era; a refusal to cowl in fear before those who seek to apparently dictate even the right to chose our individual system of religious belief.

Where You Gonna Run To?

Shortly after the tragic 2002 Bali bombing a cartoon appeared in the International Herald Tribune showing a couple lounging on a tropical beach reading a newspaper account of the Bali attack and wondering if they should decamp and head home, asking: "is it better to feel unsafe at home or travel and feel unsafe at our favorite holiday destination?"

Sadly, the threat of terror is a constant factor in the "new reality" around which we must either learn to conduct our daily lives or capitulate completely to the enemy by allowing them to set every aspect of our private and public existence.

So, ignoring the any lingering sense of foreboding on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attack, I'll be boarding a jet on that date together with thousands of others travellers around the world, carrying on with the daily business of living life on our own terms.

The alternatives aren't even worth considering.

But, truth be told, I only really feel safe and secure when I'm back home in Bali.