When I was little, I loved planes. Absolutely adored them. I come from a reasonably well off family, so I traveled a lot when I was younger, and my parents always knew how to make flying simply brilliant. I lived for the feeling of take off, that sudden lightness that this behemoth of a vehicle has when it begins its ascent into the heavens. I loved looking at the clouds, soft and fluffy. It was like a mound of pure white candy floss, with a texture halfway between cotton and snow. We used to play hang man on the sick bags for hours. There was this intense excitement linked to flying, because no matter what flight we were on we knew the destination would be so much more exciting than being back home. Even that cheap stale airplane food didn’t taste so bad.
I was three years old when things began to change. I didn’t know what was going on for a while, only that Mum was worried because Dad hadn’t gotten back yet. He phoned us once or twice and she felt a little better. She watched the news every day, three or four times a day, until he got back. After that it was maybe once or twice a day. I wasn’t allowed to watch with them. All I knew was something had happened in America, but I didn’t know what or why it affected us in any way. We lived over here, the other side of the pond. What did it matter what was going on over there?
Mum sat me down and explained it to me after a while. Some bad people had crashed a plane into a building. “A house?” I’d asked. “No, one of those big buildings.” She didn’t say much more than that. At the time I thought that it was just a bad accident. It took me a very long time to understand that people had actually died – a few years later really. Even then I didn’t understand fully what had happened.
It didn’t effect us much. We lived over here, they lived over there. We didn’t know anybody who’d been in the Twin Towers. Maybe Dad did, but nobody close to the family.
A few years later planes started to fly regularly over our house. We lived near an airport, but the planes had always flown slightly north of us, so it hadn’t affected us before. Now every night, throughout the night, my room would vibrate with the harsh bass tones of planes flying overhead. I lived in constant fear that a plane would come crashing through our roof. Not because I thought we would die, but because I thought that we’d have to move house. I had become aware of the fact that bad people did bad things on purpose.
Suddenly the world around me seemed to be a shade darker than it was before. I became afraid of plane crashes. I began to understand that people kidnapped little girls like me and stole them away from their families, and that such people had existed in the area where I lived. Curiously for a while I developed a fear of black BMW style cars, believing that the boot would open up after driving past me and a net would launch out, pulling me into the car and driving me away – Inspector Gadget really fueled my imagination as far as creative ways of kidnapping people went. I realised that people could and did die. When Mum was five, ten, fifteen minutes late to pick me up from school, I began to think that she’d died in a car crash, that I was going to be sent to an orphanage. Even to this day I still get paranoid when my close family are later than I thought they’d be.
We all have triggering moments from when we were young that showed us that this world is not as perfect as we once thought. Things we once loved, like planes or car trips, become death traps. It’s sad to think that the toddlers of today will hear of gunmen, of churches and schools and other safe and wonderful places that have been ruined by these few evils in the world, and that what once seemed so beautiful will now be fodder for macabre fantasies.