As we approach the 10 year anniversary of our nation’s worst terrorist attack and recall with so much emotion the tragic events of that day, I balance my grief at the event with the gratitude that so many of my co-workers and my boss escaped from the World Trade Center that day. Tomorrow I am preparing to take a flight for business reasons to the west coast. I am sure many would not even consider stepping on a plane on 9/11. I, however, am willing. Beyond the attacks themselves, the goal of a terrorist clearly goes beyond the killing and destruction, but also includes the intention to deprive us of our freedom; our ability to live normally. So many of us still remain personally impacted. For example, many New Yorkers will refuse to take a great new job if the office space is on a high floor. Others never leave their office building without their cell phone and wallet in tow…just in case.
Another ripple effect of September 11th, personal to me, was that I could no longer carry scissors on a plane. For years I had brought a small scissor in my carry-on bag to help me open my complimentary snack bag on the flight. To understand my dependency one need only watch my husband, John, steer clear from me daily as I navigate through our kitchen wielding a steak knife. I carry it not as a weapon, but as my default tool to open things. Think about the items that people use their fingers to pull apart: cereal bags, snack bags for the kids, hard plastic saran wrap, the wrapper that seals a new bottle of dressing, or perhaps the plastic on the lid of a can of bread crumbs. These are not easy for me. Beyond the kitchen, one uses one’s many fingers to open everything from new toy boxes to make-up packages or bottles. That hard plastic surrounding a cap is the worst!!!
The constant struggle to open things using only my two fingers reminds me of why I never use chopsticks. Can I do it? Yes, with extra effort and some frustration, I can indeed. However, why would I when I can use a fork? Years ago, even before I met John, I grabbed a steak knife or scissor to aid me in these common chores and effectively never let go. I suppose relying on a knife or scissor has become my primary adaptation for living in a ten-fingered world where packages and wrappings were never intended to be opened by the likes of me. Of course, there are real options to assist those physically lacking. For example, there are prosthetic devices. But for me? No thanks, not necessary. A steak knife or scissor? Yes, much appreciated. Just yesterday I snuck a small pair of scissors in my purse in case I needed the extra boost to open my son Charlie’s popsicle stick wrapper after school (although Charlie was totally oblivious, I used it….).
The days of free warm meals on flights have been over for some time. And so, post 9/11 and forbidden to bring my sharp tools on board to open the lame wrapper-encased airline snack offerings, I often went hungry. Admittedly, my pride would get the best of me and I would refuse to ask the person sitting next to me or the flight attendant for help.
However, a few years ago, while stuck on a runway for a length of time, starved for food with nothing available but a bag of nuts, I decided to try to open the bag on my own. Despite several initial failed attempts, I realized that by holding the bag tightly with both hands and carefully ripping the bag downward with my teeth, it would rip apart! Sure, several of the peanuts spilled onto my lap, but I nevertheless rejoiced! As I reflect, had I not been prevented from bringing the scissor on the plane, I would never have made the extra push to try to open the bag on my own. I am pleased to report that despite the fact that scissors are still a prohibited carry-on item, on this Sunday’s flight I go forth confident that a small legacy of 9/11 has been overcome. This time though, I think I’ll ask for the pretzels.