Sitting With A Stranger In An Aiport

Several months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for business. In those days and at that airport, security screening took quite a bit of time so I made a point of showing up early. When I arrived at the gate, it turns out I was a little too early and there was only one other person waiting. With no one around us except for armed and uniformed military personnel standing post, and lots of time to pass, we began to talk.

It turned out that he worked for the United States Agency for International Development in another country. It turned out that we both had young children of almost exactly the same ages. Over the course of over an hour, we confessed to each other all our worries about what was coming next, how the world we grew up in had simply ceased to exist, and what might befall our children as they grew up into whatever the new world was going to become. We didn't bother to speak of party politics, because it didn't seem relevant in that empty gate. We just spoke about the love and worry and hope that every parent of every age has had for their children.

That was nearly sixteen years ago. Our children are grown and the world has become — well, the world has become what it is.

I still have his business card in my wallet, and I still remember how close two strangers felt one quiet afternoon long ago.

— J.F. "Jeff" McCullers

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Photograph of Washington National Airport by dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.