HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE, WE HOPE YOU ARE SAFE, SOUND AND ENJOYING DELICIOUS FOOD TODAY!
In light of the many folks traveling for the holidays, I wanted to share with you this article written for the NY Times by
CHICAGO — The State Department has issued a chilling worldwide travel alert, warning travelers that the threat of terrorism looms large. Cable news and Twitter carry round-the-clock breaking news of bombings and attacks around the world. Police officers patrol major airports with bomb-sniffing dogs and carry intimidating weapons like shotguns and AR-15s.Yet on Tuesday, little of it seemed to matter to the millions of Americans who were determined to fly during Thanksgiving week, arriving at airports with blasé attitudes and shrugs about the possibility of terrorism at home.“I didn’t think about it,” said John Barragan, a 41-year-old real estate executive from Chicago, as he prepared to board his flight at O’Hare International Airport. “I’m just like, man, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”In interviews at airports around the country, travelers said they were well aware of the attacks, and some even admitted to a degree of fear. But they said they had calculated that the risk was remote, and they were determined not to let it alter their lives.At Kennedy International Airport in New York, Campbell McDougal, 55, said he had avoided large crowds on his 10-day trip with his girlfriend to New York. They had touched down from Berlin just hours after the Paris attacks, and it brought caution to their travels, especially with more tourist-centric sites.“Flights have always been an issue,” he said. “But they’re always stringent with security. Paris was on my mind last week, but not in terms of my flight.”At La Guardia Airport, Jonathan Zwerling, who had flown in from Atlanta with his 2-year-old daughter, said he had seen the warnings to be more aware of his surroundings than usual, and noted the airport’s version of seasonal trimmings: a police officer with an AR-15 assault rifle, and another with a shotgun.“My wife was real worried,” said Mr. Zwerling, 45, an aircraft maintenance worker for Delta Air Lines. “I just kind of do my thing.”Throughout the holiday week, the nation’s railroads and highways will have heightened security. New York’s police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said that with mild weather expected, there could be record crowds for the Thanksgiving parade — and record security to go with it, including, for the first time, about 200 newly trained officers from the Police Department’s Critical Response Command, a new counterterrorism squad.Amtrak said it would also have a heightened police presence in the coming days. AAA predicted that 42 million people in this country would drive 50 miles or more over the long holiday weekend, a small increase from last year.But vigilance will be most apparent at airports. Travelers have plenty to be jittery about: the attacks in Paris that killed 130, the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt that killed 224, the bombing in Beirut that killed 43 — all claimed by the Islamic State — and warnings of a planned attack in Belgium.Well over two million passengers are expected to board a flight each day during the Thanksgiving holiday period, which began Friday and runs through next Tuesday, the highest figure since 2007 and 3 percent more than last year, according to a forecast by Airlines for America, the industry trade group. United Airlines said it was adding more than 2,200 flights over that period, especially early in the morning and late at night, when many aircraft would usually be idle.Changes will be obvious at airports in the United States, including longer waits, travel experts say. Travelers with the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, which allows frequent travelers to speed up the security screening, have been advised that they may be asked submit to procedures they can usually skip, like taking off their shoes, said Henry Harteveldt, the founder of the Atmosphere Research Group.At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, “we’re in a hyper-state of vigilance,” said Reese McCranie, an airport spokesman. He said that the increased police presence would be noticeable and that passengers should arrive earlier than usual to contend with long security lines.Arnold Barnett, an aviation safety expert and a professor at M.I.T., said security lines at airports could be slower than usual this week. Since the Islamic State claimed that it had used a soda can for the bomb that brought down the plane in Egypt, agents might be more focused on monitoring liquids, Mr. Barnett said.Few travelers appear to be unsettled enough to cancel their flights. Allianz Global Assistance, an insurer, said it had seen an increase in calls from travelers who were interested in buying insurance to protect international trips, in particular, and some cancellations after the Paris attacks. Yet even for travel to cities that have been targeted, there is only scattered evidence of a travel decline.“I think people are refusing to be terrorized,” said George Hobica, the founder of airfarewatchdog.com, a travel website. “There have been no panic or fire sales. Airfares have not gone down to Paris or even to Brussels. You’d think no one wants to go anymore. But it still costs about $1,200 to fly there from Chicago or San Francisco.”But some travelers, as they made their way through airports on Tuesday, admitted that they were a little worried.At Los Angeles International Airport, Cynthia Diaz, 45, an accounts receivable supervisor, was headed to Boise, Idaho, to visit her partner’s family. “I was little bit nervous this morning when I thought about it,” she said.Christian Miller, a 29-year-old flight attendant for Shuttle America, said the Paris attacks made her change the ritual prayer she says before every takeoff.Usually she prays for God to send six angels to her plane — two to carry the front and back, two for the big wings, and a pair for the top and bottom. Then she asks God to ease the troubles on the minds of any of her passengers. For more than a week now, since she received pleading text messages and phone calls from family members scared for her safety, she has added extra emphasis to that last part.“I pray, ‘If someone is feeling like they need to be violent, let my smile maybe change something in their heart,’ ” said Ms. Miller, who lives in Atlanta. “It’s tough; we’re at a tender place now not only for America, but for the universe.”On Tuesday morning at O’Hare, travelers were greeted with a surprisingly cheerful tableau: moderate crowds, short security lines, strings of sparkling holiday lights and, in one terminal, a table where airline employees handed out free cups of steaming apple cider and coffee.In the international terminal, as passengers arrived to board flights to Seoul, South Korea; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; New Delhi; and Hong Kong, one traveler said he had few worries about flying so soon after the attacks in Paris.“Everything is O.K.,” said Michiel Wehbeh, a 55-year-old engineer from Syria, who splits his time between Chicago and the United Arab Emirates. “Security is a must, as it should be. But I have confidence that everything will be fine.”Maurice Nguiffo, a 41-year-old taxi driver, said he was worried about flying in light of terrorism fears around the globe. But he felt he had to keep his plans to go to Montreal, where he would reunite with family, who would then fly with him to Cameroon.“We are not comfortable flying,” he said. “But sometimes you don’t have a choice. I want to see my family.”
View the full story on The NY Times official site - Happy Thanksgiving and be safe!