Yesterday morning, Charles Bohn looked like he was bracing himself to hear some bad news.
Hunched over in a plastic chair outside of a security checkpoint at the Philadelphia International Airport, Bohn was waiting for his wife and daughter to arrive from their two-week vacation in St. Louis, Mo.
"When my wife told me that she was coming today, I asked 'Are you crazy?'" Bohn said with a grimace. "I wouldn't have chosen this day to fly."
A year after Sept. 11, anxieties about airline security still linger in the backs of many peoples' minds, but some people confronted those anxieties when they had to fly yesterday.
The atmosphere at the Philadelphia airport, in fact, was vaguely reminiscent of how it was 365 days prior.
As flags outside the airport flapped at half mast, the terminals remained eerily empty. Guards outnumbered passengers at security stations, and ticket check-in lines were non-existent. And according to the passengers brave enough to fly, the planes were just as vacant.
"There were about 11 people on the flight," recounted Donald Ryder, a West Philadelphia resident who flew in from Raleigh-Durham International Airport yesterday morning. "About 70 seats were empty."
Michelle Oblek, who was returning from a business trip in Boston, had a similar experience.
"The plane I was on holds well over 100 people, but there may have been 25 people on the flight," she said.
The low numbers came despite efforts on the part of airlines to encourage people to discard their anxieties and fly. Many airlines slashed ticket prices in half or even more yesterday.
To Gretchen Kroble, a New Jersey resident who was en route to attend a friend's wedding in Nebraska, these bargains were too good to pass over. Undaunted by the stigma that some have attached to flying on Sept. 11, Kroble was just glad that she was able to get a cheap ticket.
"It was almost 200 bucks, round trip," Kroble said. "I'm more worried about the plane just crashing out of nowhere than the terrorists."
"It would be kind of dumb for them to strike the same day as last year, but whatever," she added.
Other people did not have much choice in the matter.
Lori Green and Judy Wright, two nurses from Nashville, Tenn. visiting Philadelphia for a medical course, were not exactly thrilled when they discovered that their return flights had been scheduled for Sept. 11.
"My nursing supervisor didn't think anything about it when she booked our flights," Green said. "I wasn't very happy when I found out -- I've got an empty spot in my gut."
Yet, in the midst of the unspoken fear and tension that many felt as they passed through the airport yesterday, there were several people who remained calm.
John Archer, who had flown into Philadelphia from Minneapolis on a business trip, said that he did not think twice about making travel arrangements for yesterday morning.
"It escaped me when I was making the flight reservation," he said. "It only came to me when I booked the car rental -- the person just looked at me and said, 'Oh.'"
Ryder also was not phased by getting on a plane.
"I'm not really scared to fly because of what happened last year," he said. "If it would happen again, it would happen any day."
Other people took comfort in the fact that airport security has been somewhat revamped over the past 12 months. Between increasing the number of police officers on duty to adding random security checks at flight gates, airports have made several efforts to prevent a repeat of last year's events.
"I see the looks on their faces, and the passengers seem to be satisfied," Philadelphia International Airport Police Captain Domenic Mingacci said. "They don't mind the extra wait and security -- it makes people feel better seeing officers."
Jill Bailey, a flight attendant, said that she has noticed a change in travelers' attitude toward security as well.
"Passengers don't take any crap anymore -- if they see anything suspicious, they're going to let us know," Bailey said.
If anything, people who chose to fly yesterday were just trying to retain as much normalcy as possible, in spite of the memories that loomed overhead.
"I flew for the same reason as everyone else -- I'm not going to let this stop me from doing what I need to do," Oblek said.
And for Bohn, who breathed a sigh of relief when he found out that his family's plane had landed safely, he's just glad that he won't have to spend another night worrying.
"I've been a nervous wreck for weeks, but their flight is here -- it's on the ground," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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