I thought I was over it. I thought the fear had packed its bags and left me for a person less rational than I. But there it was yesterday, sharp and clear; my fear of low-flying planes.
The fear came, naturally, after 9/11. It's a bad fear to have when you live so close to a major airport. The planes fly low all the time; I swear I can make out faces in the little windows sometimes. The sound drowns out the television, makes you shout to be heard.
After that first week or so when there wasn't a single airplane in the sky, the absence of noise from above became somehow worse than noise itself. And then the planes came back and the skies were filled with traffic again and I, like so many other people, cowered in fear every time the underbelly of a jet made an appearance above me.
Eventually - more than a year later, actually - the fear subsided and it dawned on me that a traffic heavy sky was a good sign. As long as the planes were flying and airports were open, all was right in America. There had been no sudden attacks that would shut us down again.
Cut to yesterday, driving home from work. A cold, but bright and sunny day. Winter in the air, Christmas on my mind, a good song on the radio. So hakuna mattata.
See, the odd thing about the planes is how they seem to appear out of nowhere. The noise, the rumbling ground is just suddenly upon you, sometimes jolting you out of whatever state of reverie or spacing out you may be in. Yesterday, it was more than a jolt. It was a bullet. I was stopped at a traffic light, fooling around with the radio stations and it was just there. The roar, the pounding in my stomach as if some bass-heavy song was thumping on the stereo and then my instinct, as always, to look up.
The jet was right above me, dark against the bright sky, tons of metal screeching through the air. Something snapped inside my brain, perhaps a fragment of a memory of a fear that I thought was safely sent packing and I froze. I felt the familiar palipitations of my heart, the quickening of my pulse, the dryness in my mouth. I stared at the plane, craning my neck to follow its path and I had a vision of it crashing into some building, any tall building, taking it down with a purpose and vengeance. It just seemed so low. So huge. So ominous.
The light turned green and I pulled into the CVS parking lot on my left. I took some deep breaths. In with the good, out with the bad. I pulled myself together and headed towards home again, with the metallic taste of fear still in my mouth.
I felt somewhat ashamed that, two years later, I still have this notion that planes are evil weapons of mass destruction, that I still had this anxiety and stress swimming in my head when people who were there, right at those buildings, right at that street, even inside the buildings, and not watching from a distance, seeing the smoke in the air as almost a secondary event, are able to look at planes without flinching. And then it hit me, again. Another one of those clarifying, defining moments.
I will never get over it.