The recent terroristic attacks and brutal murders of innocent civilians in the city of Paris by individuals identifying themselves as being affiliated with the savage sect calling itself ISIS, ISIL, Danesh or the Islamic State have sent aftershocks across the globe – causing ordinary citizens of cities and towns to wonder if they possibly could be immune from future attacks.
And while it is impossible to say with any certainty whether and where this awful organization will strike again, or how many people will be affected, it is perhaps most particularly a harrowing possibility in larger cities, such as Chicago, where the sheer density of population and concentration of resources – both economic and cultural – offer a tantalizing target to those who in their utter sickness of mind and soul would seek to inflict the most damage to the most innocent in the most headline- and attention-grabbing way.
It’s safe to say that few people attending a Chicago Bears football game — or a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game, or those shopping along the Miracle Mile, or enjoying one of Chicago’s many outstanding museums on museum island – have not paused for at least a moment to wonder – is it safe for me to be here? Is this place and are the people in it a target for those who would inflict terror on the world?
So too, passengers on the elevated or commuter trains, or the thousands traveling through Union Station by train, or either of the city’s international airports. In fact, it might be that those air travelers have a propensity to be even a bit more skittish than most.
Almost as long as we’ve been enduring enhanced security measures and extra screenings in post 9/11 America, we’ve been hearing about those measures’ failures to uncover with absolute certainty potentially dangerous passengers and cargo. It makes one wonder – how is it that we haven’t had more horrific incidents in the air? Is there another airborne attack in our future? The truth is, there’s no way for an amateur writer to say.
But one thing is certain, the stress and added pressure of worry is making the modern-day skies anything but friendly. Passengers and crew are on edge. They are suspicious. They are grumpy and exhausted. One wonders how much longer the system can continue to function with such a pervasive, persistent thread of fear and worry and dread.
Will air travel ever recover its former glory, or is it doomed to forever be an uncomfortable, disconcerting experience? And if the answer is the latter, what will the next major new option be for mass transit in the United States – a country so vast and so spread out as to make other, slower, forms of mass transit less appealing to the traveler?
Is this the beginning of the end for tourism in cities such as Chicago? That may be too harsh an analysis. But one thing is certain, the attacks in Paris and around the world are changing the way we see, and experience, travel, perhaps for good.