I remember a day when I travelled to Australia, the year was 1999. I was in fifth grade, and the school band was going on a trip there for an exchange. We breezed through the gates with nary a snag. Security took minutes; I didn’t have to undo my belts or shoes. I had a bottle of shampoo in my backpack, because I forgot to pack it into my luggage. I didn’t have to throw away my bottle of soda. Kids could even visit the pilots in the cockpit, occasionally, or so I’ve heard.
I came back with lots of souvenirs: I had a model of a sarcophagus with a mummy inside; I had this wooden block toy that unfolded upon itself endlessly, held together by straps; I had a letter opener, fashioned after a sword. I had them all in my backpack.
But then, I remember, two years later, everything changed.
Liquids had to be put into tiny ziploc bags, bottles of water had to be thrown out. A fear of assault by nail clipper gripped airports around the world, and many an errant nail could not be clipped on the flight. Like a polite guest at an Asian household, we had to remove out shoes to enter a doorway that shot invisible waves at us, painting a portrait of us in greens, yellows and reds (if you caught a glimpse of the screen after you’ve stepped through). Belts were undone, pockets had to be emptied, veins were throbbed as frustration and annoyance coursed through them as an ever-expanding line of people waiting in the queue fumed at that one person who had a little trouble repacking his things back into his carry-on at the end of the scanner conveyor belt.
All because on this fateful day, twelve years ago, two skyscrapers came tumbling down, brought down by aeroplanes driven by religious fervour.