I once was a happy flier. I loved traveling by plane and always brought a book to read. Back when I was flying, you got a snack, drinks and a meal, depending on the length of the flight. I even enjoyed the airline food; it was like a picnic.
And then 9/11 happened. I, like millions of people, woke up to the news of the twin towers collapsing, an attempted attack on the Pentagon, and then hearing that over 3,000 people had lost their lives. In watching the footage the first time, I thought, ‘how did this happen? What’s wrong with the pilots? Is this a terrible error?’
I then realized that the planes had passengers on board and that they had all died once they hit the towers. I understood that I was watching the last breaths of those on board. I saw real terrorism for the first time in my life.
That evening I stood with hundreds of people in line to give blood; it was all I could think of to do. All of us talked and mourned together and got angry together. Since that day, I never flew again.
Look, I know the statistics and know that plane crashes are not common. In fact, the probability you will die in a plane crash is nearly one in eleven million. But, if you’re like me, you automatically see yourself as that one in eleven million.
My wonderful step-daughter is in the Army reserves. For several years she has flown to Oahu for training, and each year she has invited me to come with her. And each year I politely say ‘no, thanks.’ However, this coming year will be her last time to go and she again invited me to go with her in February.
For the first time I spoke without thinking: “you know, I think I may take you up on that.” Here’s why: first of all, my therapist has offered to ‘walk me through’ what to expect, i.e., the TSA rules and regulations, etc. (This wasn’t an issue until 9/11.) Second, the Crankee Yankee would love the chance to re-do the kitchen while I’d be gone. He knows that I will probably lose my cool if I stay around for that! (not-so-fun fact: loads of couples divorce during a kitchen renovation! Yikes!!!)
And finally, third: I ache to visit Hawaii. I want to float a lei of flowers out to sea over the USS Arizona. I want to walk the beaches in my bare feet and swim in the surf. I want to go to a luau (corny, I know, but I still want to), watch the fire dancers and hula dancers, snorkel for sea shells and swim with the hono (turtles). I want to walk through the Polynesian Cultural Center and take my time. I want to go on some guided tours around the mountains, beaches and sacred places.
I want to eat *poke and shave ice. I want to go to a luau and try everything, from kalua pig to poi (the bland, staple starch of the indigenous Hawaiians is made by mashing taro root to a gray paste.) I want to drink in all things Hawaiian; the sights, the sounds, the people, the places; everything.