I was eight years old the first time I flew on an airplane. My family took a trip to California in 1993 and we spent nearly 2 weeks between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
Growing up in the Washington D.C. area, I used to stand near the Washington Monument with my dad and see an airplane pass overhead, what seemed like, every five minutes, which I loved as a child. I never imagined I would get to ride in an airplane anytime soon. So, it was such an exciting feeling to finally get on a huge airplane for the first time when I was eight years old!
Back then, it was Continental Airlines, which has ultimately become United Airlines, one that I personally have had multiple great experiences with. Traveling was so different in those times. But as a child, I got to enjoy a few mystic airplane luxuries of days past, such as goodbyes at the gate and free “meals” on the plane. Before my time, other features had already disappeared, such as smoking onboard, no seat belts required, and even overhead hanging baby cradles. Yes, that was a thing.
Just one stop! Does it count?
On our way to LA from DC, we had one stop along the way at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. We had to go to the next gate to get on another plane to continue our journey, so technically I was “in” Illinois. A popular travel question is: Have you been there?
What would you say? Does it count?
Some people would say yes, it counts. Some people even include simply flying over a state or territory as having been there. I personally don’t always count places in which I haven’t stopped and purposefully spent meaningful time. I’ve passed through and flown over many states, but I think so far, I’ve spent time in 23 states; to include states I’ve driven through, my count would then be 27; and to include states I’ve had flight stops in, my count would be 29. How many states have you visited?
The horrible day that changed the world.
When I was 16, the unforgettable tragedy occurred in the United States on 9/11 that changed life forever. The world would never be the same again. One of my beautiful sisters and travel companions had just moved into a studio apartment on the Lower East Side over the weekend. It was just a few days later on that Tuesday when tragedy struck and she took photos from her new apartment of the Towers across the city, smoking, where later that day, there was left, quite literally and metaphorically, a gaping hole in the city.
The following April, I was turning 17 and was able to fly in to Newark Airport to visit her in Manhattan during Spring Break for my birthday. I had flown a couple times since my first flight, but everything was completely different now. There were armed soldiers with M16s stationed around the airports, other soldiers on patrol with sniffer dogs. No one was allowed past the check-in gates anymore; no more goodbyes at the gate. Nothing has been the same since. So many victims lost that day.
If there were a bittersweet silver lining, it would be that we are all much safer now than before.
Afraid to get on that plane!
The fear of flying is called aviophobia, or sometimes more generally, flight phobia or flying anxiety/phobia. This is a very real and often crippling fear that keeps about 6.5% of Americans away from airports. Many celebrities are afflicted with a fear of flying such as Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullock and Travis Barker of Blink-182 who both survived separate plane crashes. Whoopi Goldberg happened to witness a mid-air plane collision from her balcony window in San Diego in 1978 and now has PTSD and a fear of flying.