Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PLANES IN THE AIR

The company I work for sits underneath one of the airline approach paths to Kansas City International Airport.  Because of this we have as many planes flying over the building as we do trains passing behind the building.  While approaching the airport the planes come from the southeast towards the northwest at a medium elevation.  They are low enough that you can tell what airline they belong to but not too low as to be able to see any windows or details such as that on the planes.

It was a beautiful day today in Kansas City and at noon I was outside enjoying the sun and the moderate temperatures.  As I was standing there a plane flew overhead on it's approach to the airport.  Maybe it is the engineer in me or just a natural curiosity but I love to watch trains, planes, boats and cars as they travel.  I turned my head upward and watched the plane make it's way across the blue sky heading to the northwest.  That was when I realized that ten years ago today, that plane would not have been in the air.

I wrestled with whether to write about the nightmare of September 11, 2001 or not.  What more can be said about it?  It was horrific and a day that will stay in all of our memories for the rest of our lives.  When I saw that plane on approach today though, I realized that ten years ago  today there were not any planes on approach to the airport.

Ten years and two days ago, I had received a phone call from my wife telling me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  A little while later she called again saying that the other tower had been hit as well.  The first thought in my mind was the same first thought of all Americans that day.  It was a terrorist attack.  As the towers collapsed into the ground in New York City it became clear that this was a much more successful attack than the one in 1993.

As word of a plane hitting the Pentagon started to be known the terror really began to set in my mind like no other attack before.  Then came word of another plane heading for Washington DC that had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  I came to a realization of what Americans had felt back in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed beyond recognition.  Our borders had been breached and we were under attack.

Nobody knew how many other rogue planes there might be flying around the country aiming for targets that would cripple the country.  All planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport and as soon as possible.  I remember that day watching plane after plane circle in a holding pattern over the airport in the northwest skies.  Then almost before we knew it, the skies were empty.

The planes that were a normal part of our day as they flew over us were no longer there and would not be there for several days after the attack.  Each day after that I remember going outside and looking in the skies at wonderment at the emptiness that filled them.

I could write more about the attacks but everyone knows how they felt.  They felt the same way I did.  For the first time since Pearl Harbor we were truly an united country.  There was a oneness that I had never seen in the country before.  It wouldn't last forever of course, but during that time there was a feeling of being truly a part of something bigger than myself. I was part of the greatest country  in the world and was united with all my fellow Americans.

The planes were eventually released to start flying again.  It was a slow start up as the planes were spread all over the country.  Some airports had more planes then they could handle and other cities did not have many planes grounded at all.  The logistics said that the planes had to be shuffled around the country before transportation by air could be done in a proper and correct way.


The first plane I saw in the air after the attacks and the national grounding of all planes was a welcome sight.  The country would never be the same, we all knew that and it hasn't been the same since that fateful day.  Seeing that first plane back in the air however became a sign of things beginning to work their back to somewhat close to normal.

Since that day ten years ago, the country has become more divided than it was before September 11, 2001.  It has not been a good decade for the United States.  It isn't because of one policy or another, one philosophy or another or one political party or another.  Two wars that started out popular and became a dividing point for the country has slowed the government and the country to a practical stand still.

Finger pointing by citizens and our government has led us no where but backwards.  I don't pretend to understand why this has happened and I make no pretense as to knowing how to fix it.  I do know one thing.  For awhile this country was united and was strong.  That is not the case any longer and it won't be until we the people and our government can get back to working together as a solid powerful nation that we have the resources to become.

There is an answer out there somewhere.  It seems lie no one knows how to find it though.

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