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Aboard a trans-Atlantic flight: Beyond fears

Aboard a trans-Atlantic flight: Beyond fears

By Kevin Drew

LONDON (CNN) -- Forty minutes into his flight, Ray Gibson leaned back in his seat in the MD-11 and gave his assessment of the anniversary of September 11, 2001: "It's been a hell of a year, but I've got to move on," the Atlanta resident said in a slow Southern drawl.

Delta Airlines Flight 10, a nonstop flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to London, was one of the first international flights between the United States and Europe to greet the early hours of September 11. And while the mood of the flight's travelers seemed to be the usual good spirits for people either taking off for a vacation or returning home, the spectre of last year's September 11 wasn't far away.

As Wednesday approached, traffic at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta was near usual levels of passenger traffic, said airline ticket officials. Most workers were anticipating a quieter day on the 11th.

"Today hasn't been bad, but tomorrow is going to be an easy day here," said a Hartsfield service worker, who did not want to give his name.

Only five people were selected randomly for inspection at the gate to the plane -- a middle-aged white couple, two middle-aged white men and a young African-American woman.

About two-thirds of the 260 seats in the flight's economy section had sold, a normal number, said a Delta ticket official, for midweek trans-Atlantic flights in the autumn. About half of the business section seats had sold, said the official, who declined to be identified.

Dressed in blue jeans, Gibson had packed his guitar and a few other possessions to go to Great Britain and sell his brand of Southern rock-based music.

Gibson's goals are modest, yet optimistic: Whether he ends up busking on the streets of London or playing in pubs or clubs in the North, Gibson simply wants exposure -- and, he hopes, a record contract. He credits last September 11 for the move.

"You can't let fear of the unknown dictate your actions," Gibson said. "In a way, September 11th is responsible for me going to England. Never been there ... going to be at the mercy of a lot of unknowns. But I had to give it a try."

Nearby, Henry Moret sat reading a book and relaxing, eagerly awaiting touching down in London to meet up with his wife so the two could enjoy a vacation in Scotland.

An employee of the federal government's General Services Administration, Moret has spent the past year traveling around the United States educating postal employees about ways to detect anthrax-tainted mail.

"I've worked for Uncle Sam for 28 years and I've never worked so hard as the past year. I saw a lot of fear in the weeks after September 11th and when the anthrax scare started," Moret said. "But the more people learned about what anthrax is, the more that fear disappeared."

While the passengers of Flight 10 weren't occupied with the anniversary of September 11, its memory was never far away.

A "Code Orange" alert of stepped-up security measures had been put in place at U.S. airports on September 10. And halfway through its seven-and-a-half hour journey, Flight 10 experienced a delayed period of air turbulence, jarring passengers awake and causing many sitting by windows to nervously look out into the darkness.

At Gatwick Airport in England, early in the morning of September 11, airport worker Gordon Lidon said simply, "You have to get on with your life, from a tragedy like that what your country had. But none of us can really let our guard down, can we?"




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