I have no idea what it is about my travel schedule, but I almost always seem to be on a plane on 9/11 and I always find myself thinking back to 2001 when I was also supposed to be on a plane back to D.C. from the TTA meeting in Texas. I remember watching with my fellow Americans as our collective hearts broke and our false sense of security was shattered forever. I will never forget the kindness of NTCA members and strangers during that time.
Today was a gloomy, rainy, pre-hurricane day in D.C. as I headed to Reagan National Airport and passed by the Pentagon. My heart clenched a little bit remembering those who lost their lives on that hallowed ground and noting how little we think about it as we buzz by the Pentagon daily. Anniversaries serve an important purpose in remembering.
The airport was unusually quiet for a Tuesday when Congress is in session and things are popping but I have also noticed that on 9/11…folks who don’t need to travel that day typically choose not to. I get it.
However, there was one really big bright spot today (aside from having a plane with no mechanical issues and landing on time in St. Louis for the NISC meeting) and that was being able to help celebrate a plane full of American veterans from WWII, Korean War and Vietnam as they flew in for the day to visit their respective memorials and honor their fallen comrades. I’ve done this before and I find it a beautiful celebration. The airport alerts you to the timing and the gate (which is obvious with their banners, flags, volunteers and band playing patriotic themes), hands out flags and gets the entire terminal engaged in the celebration. As soon as the plane lands, they are met on the runway by the fire department which shoots a beautiful water cannon gateway over the plane. They roll in and the wheelchairs roll on and soon our American heroes are greeted by a throng of people in the airport all clapping and cheering and shaking their hands as they make their way off the plane and through the terminal. Maybe even more poignantly, they are greeted by a fresh-faced crop of our men and women in uniform. I’m not going to lie, I always get a little teary-eyed with the celebration and it reminds me of how great our country truly is.