Monday, September 7, 2009

What if there were no air show, but there were still military jets?

This past Labor Day weekend, the annual air show was in Cleveland. It's based at the Burke Lakefront Airport just a few blocks from my apartment building. Beginning the Wednesday prior, jets buzzed the downtown area. It was actually pretty cool seeing and hearing the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds zipping and varooming through the end-of-summer skies. And even cooler watching the show up close on Saturday.

But then, on Sunday, as I watched from my apartment, it occurred to me that in some parts of the world, these amazing, loud, zooming machines did not represent entertainment. Instead, they were represented just a few of the many reminders of the conflict a country or region was enmeshed in.

What would it feel like, I wondered, if on any other day of the year, without warning, loud, fast-moving jets started buzzing the city and suburbs? If a bomb were dropped, a building strafed, and ground forces started moving into the streets?

What would it feel like to wake up and fall asleep to the sounds of jets and helicopters overhead or in the distance? What would it feel like driving to work, sitting in class, talking on the phone to client with the boom and rumble of flying battle-craft echoing down the streets, rattling the windows, always there?

I can only imagine that the novelty would wear off instantly. Any chills felt would not be from the thrill, but rather from the fear, the sounds would spark and fuel.

I'm grateful that, for the time being, the sound of a jet does nothing more than bring a giggle of glee from my inner little boy, and not a spasm of fear that the next bomb might fall on me or someone I know and love.

But, given the nature of our world, all that could change overnight. Couldn't it?

On 9/11/2001, the jets weren't military and carried no bombs or guns, but the impact they had was just as profound as if they were and did. For the most part, we can still look up at a jet trailing through the sky and feel wonder at the miracle of flight rather than wondering if it's friend or foe. Thank God. But let's not forget those who died on 9/11, and those who are dying in other parts of the world every time a jet careens through a beautiful blue end-of-summer sky, dropping a bomb or strafing their neighbors.