You are sitting on a Frontier Airlines flight. It is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks so people are a little on edge, but you just want to get home to Ohio. Boarding is complete on your flight from Denver to Detroit and you find yourself between two men, one who appears to be sick.
In the air, the guy who looks a little sick gets up to use the lavatory. Taking advantage of the opportunity, your seatmate in the window seat also excuses himself to use the lavatory. Only one is available, so while one goes in, the other waits outside.
The first guy had some bad Indian food the night before and is suffering the consequences of that now as he sits in the lavatory. Ten minutes later and he is still in the lavatory, cursing under his breath that he will never eat bhindi masala again.
We all know how bad it can be when you eat something that your stomach does not agree with—so it really is not all that unusual to spend ten minutes in the lav.
But this is the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and he is onboard an airplane. The flight crew becomes concerned and notifies the authorities. F-16s are scrambled and escort the plane into Detroit.
The plane taxis over to a remote corner of the airport and sits. The pilot instructs everyone to remain in their seats and not to get up under any circumstances, warning “there would be consequences” for anyone who did not comply.
Cops surround the plane, but nothing happens. You just sit and wait as 30 minutes tick by. Suddenly, 10 cops in military-like fatigues carrying machine guns “storm” the plane and much to your surprise and the to the surprise of your two seatmates, run to your aisle, screaming at you to get up.
You are handcuffed, brought to an airport detention center, strip-searched, and interrogated. Your name is run through every law enforcement database before you are eventually released without an apology…all because some busybody felt that something sinister was at play in the lavatory.
Bomb sniffing dogs descend upon the plane and quickly go over every nook and cranny. No bomb, other explosive device, or illegal contraband is found. Another fruitless search.
But here is the difficult issue we must grasp with:
Out of an abundance of caution, should suspicion be raised when someone is in the lavatory too long on aircraft? Deep down, would you have felt uncomfortable if you were traveling on the tenth anniversary of a day when four airliners were hijacked then used as weapons of mass destruction and then saw action onboard the plane that appeared peculiar, like two men walking toward the lavatory at the same time and one spending 10 minutes in there?
I find no pleasure in admitting that I would have been a bit concerned as well. Now I am not one to voice alarm to others, so I would have probably just returned to my book, but there is no doubt my heart would have begun to flutter if I became aware that some guy dripping sweat and looking pained had barricaded himself in the lavatory for nearly a quarter of an hour with some other guy standing around nearby.
Sadly, this story proves the point I made in my 9/11 anniversary post. We continue to live and fear and even the most reasonable minded will sometimes succumb to that fear. Terrorism disrupts and invokes a panoply of detrimental emotions. Ten years later, we see the fears resulting from the 9/11 attacks remain latent in our psyche. That certainly does not justify what happened on this flight, but it does help to explain why it happened.
And I cannot offer a solution. I just feel terrible for innocent passengers like the three on that flight that get trapped in society’s fear and were subsequently treated in an un-American and inhumane fashion.
The way we honor those killed on 9/11 is not by assuming the worst in every situation, but by forcibly setting aside the destructive fears that continue to injure those around us.