IMPACT by Lisa Lanser Rose
by Lisa Lanser Rose
A voice above proclaimed: No automobiles may be left unattended within three hundred feet of the facility. I blinked; an imaginary avalanche of flame slammed through the airport.
“Where is everybody?” I asked at the empty ticket counter.
On board at Harrisburg International, the flight attendant lectured us on safety features, and I relished my front-row seat in the almost-empty puddle-jumper. Fifteen days after 9/11, and so far I avoided the news blazoning Bin Laden’s face in satanic black and red. Limp children draped over firefighter’s arms. Immune, I knew not to give it too much thought, even when ashes from Manhattan dusted my Pennsylvania town like plant spores from outer space.
“Which emergency exit do you want?” I asked my seatmate. “That one’s mine.”
“I hate prop planes,” the big guy said.
“Why? Because those propeller blades could zip through this aluminum can and cut our legs off mid-thigh?”
“That’s one reason,” he said. “I’m with the Air Force.”
“Pilot or bombardier?”
“Manager of the commissary.”
“So you’re an expert,” I said. “Everyone told me to cancel this trip. Should we be afraid to fly?”
“Nah,” he said. “Odds are it’s safer now than ever.”
“That’s what I thought,” I nodded. “I teach critical thinking.” So much to not fear. Lightning. Shark bite. Columbine.
Conversation prevents boredom, loneliness, and the temptation to dwell on what my daughter’s schoolteacher cried to the kids, “My best friend ran the daycare in the Twin Towers.”
In a halting, disembodied voice, our pilot reported altitude, weather conditions, and flight duration. He paused. “Folks? Can I just talk to you a moment?”
“Sorry.” The flight attendant shook her head. “He’s Southern.”
“Let me ramble,” said our pilot. “I know you’re thinking about recent events. And I want to say. . . if any of you are thinking about. . . this cabin—”
I strained to hear him over the engine thrum.
“You can use blankets to deflect knives. . . Throw things at the hijackers. Aim for their faces. . . I agree with our president that. . . if anybody gets into this cockpit. . .”
“What the actual fuck,” said the big guy.
“He’s having a tough time,” I said. “But he’s pragmatic.”
The plane banked, lifting the twin cooling towers of Three-Mile Island into view.
“I used to fish there as a kid,” the big guy said. “I was there the day it happened. We got a whole week off from school. We didn’t have to make it up.”
“Silver linings,” I said.
We landed in Philly. Everyone phoned someone, and the rubble of Ground Zero still emitted 1600 cell phone signals. Already slipping into anonymity, my seatmate lowered my carry-on, making me almost love him. Dust motes danced in the gangway, and I remembered how my daughter and her friends sang, “It’s snowing!” running across the sunny September lawn, catching ashes on their small pink tongues.
Lisa Lanser Rose is a trick dog trainer and the author of the memoir, For the Love of a Dog and the psychological mystery, Body Sharers, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for Best First Novel. Other honors include the Briar Cliff Review Nonfiction Award, The Florida Review Editor’s Award, and a Best American Essay Notable Essay. Founder of the award-winning blog co-op, The Gloria Sirens, she gets lost on dog agility courses throughout Tampa Bay. Her flash nonfiction piece “Impact” received Honorable Mention in Cleaver’s 2022 flash contest judged by Meg Pokrass.