A hand-written announcement on a small white sheet of paper duct-taped to the back of a metal lawn chair pretty much said it all, to wit: "No Flights Period -- FAA order. Details call FSS."
The setting on this morning -- the morning after the heinous airliner attacks upon the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA -- was one of uncommon beauty. The air was clear and crisp, the perfect day for a short bike ride to the 1500 foot grass runway at Skylane Airport. But at this moment, as is often the case on weekday mornings, the airport had no pilots on hand or the usual group of frequent visitors.
Walking out on the runway, past the suburban homes which flank the huge grassy expanse on the westerly side, the sky was filled with high, diffuse, striated cloud patterns -- translucent in their texture, alluding to the graceful curves one frequently finds in the feathers of birds. But amidst the early morning dew on the grass, looking out amongst the enormous celestial panorama, an eerie silence of the skies was noticed amid the hushed rumble of a distant Diesel locomotive nearby.
After a time the engine noise subsided, and the haunting absence of the whoosh of jet engines, visible white contrails at altitude or the propeller report of smaller commercial and personal aircraft became much more apparent. Occasionally, the only sound was the voice of a nearby bird flying freely above a nearby cornfield.
An entire world huddled in front of the unbelievable media images in lower Manhattan and on the banks of the Potomac River. We saw our entire air defense and intelligence networks made a mockery of by the demonic minds of sick terrorists who used the modern instruments of intercontinental travel as some of the most heinous weapons ever devised on the face of the earth.
Untold tens of thousands of lives were lost in an effort to spiritually wound and humiliate what we have heretofore been told was the last remaining superpower.
With perhaps hundreds of innocent travelers taken hostages in the diabolical proceedings, their hopes, dreams and aspirations ceased to exist in three enormous fireballs of destruction and yet another airliner crash in southern Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the most disturbing consequence of this season of national pain and suffering will be the continued loss of freedoms which individual American citizens and businesses will experience in an effort to protect a civil society from the outrageous actions of our bitter enemies.
Just as commercial aviation, general aviation will realize untold changes in the regulatory environment pertaining to access to major metropolitan airports. Americans will once again relinquish freedoms due to
As we ponder the magnitude of all of this, history teaches us that freedoms lost to government power are rarely recovered.
On the way home I observed that the lines at the gas stations had subsided from the evening before, and a little further down at the next intersection another motorist demonstrated the general intolerance of bicycles expressed by so many on Evansville streets. Everything, relatively speaking, seemed back to normal in my home town.
Except for the silent skies.
Coker is a local free lance writer.