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  • Terrorists Get in the Way of Love
    The plot to blow up American airliners heading back to the United States from the U.K. is disrupting my relationship with my Italian man and Italy
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    This is the first in a series of stories about travel to Italy and how it is being affected by the latest terrorist plot. You can participate in the reporting of these stories by responding to a relevant poll located to the right. You can also write to me at francesca@francescadimeglio.com to share your recent travel experiences to Italy. I'd like to know what security was like, if and how you prepared differently for your trip, what the airport was like, etc.

    AUGUST 13, 2006 - As most of you know, I'm head-over-heels in love with an Italian man. My boyfriend Antonio Gerenini lives in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples, and I live in the United States. We see each other daily, thanks to our webcams, and we both travel back and forth frequently. Still, long-distance relationships are never easy. And this week they seemed downright impossible. Being back from a long vacation in Italy for just under a month now, I watched airports across the globe transform literally overnight on MSNBC and CNN. With every second of reporting, Italy - and especially Antonio - seemed to move further and further away from me.

    To get to Antonio on a good day, I usually have to take two flights (which total about 10 hours), a car (a half hour at least, depending on the traffic in Napoli), a boat (40 minutes to an hour) and another car (15 minutes, depending on the traffic in Ischia). Watching the news and seeing the winding lines of people going through the first round of security at John F. Kennedy International Airport, my usual point of departure, and the long list of delayed or cancelled flights made me realize that my trip will likely be even longer from now on.

    One of the reasons this relationship works is because of my flexible career. I work from home, part time for BusinessWeek Online and part time as a freelancer for other publications. The beauty of working as a writer or editor is that you can work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have your laptop. Having a cell phone is a plus, but you can do without it if you have VOIP or even an international calling card to do interviews.

    For now, it's unclear about whether you can bring your laptops on international flights. I know for sure that you can not take them with you if you're departing from the United Kingdom and maybe some other European destinations. Regardless, however, taking a computer or any electronic device on international trips - even those to Italy - is going to be harder than before. That means working from Italy will be more difficult, too.

    Perhaps, I'll have to travel to Italy only when I can take a vacation, which will mean staying there fewer days - and having even less time with Antonio than usual. That's ok anyway because the costs for airline tickets is probably going to skyrocket as an already shaky industry loses even more profit and needs to output more on security.

    Obviously, I'll comply with all of these new rules and costs. I just want to be safe. I want Antonio to be safe. I want my family to be safe. I want anyone traveling anywhere to be safe. Having to throw away my toothpaste - or even leaving my laptop at home - isn't the worst of this, anyway. What made me cry when I heard the news of this plot was the fear with which we now live. By nature, most of us have a curiosity that is quenched by traveling. Flying allowed us to see parts of the world that were virtually unreachable before planes. Despite this, for many, it was scary enough to fly before hijackers and 9/11. Just when you started to relax about getting on a plane again, this plot was uncovered.

    Since that dreadful day in September 2001, my stomach has suffered every time I have had to get on a plane. I was in New York City working in midtown at Ladies' Home Journal on 9/11. Out the window, we could see way down toward the Twin Towers - the ball of fire, the plumes of smoke. I ripped off my high heeled shoes and ran barefoot toward my friend Steven's apartment near Central Park. People covered in debris ran from downtown toward midtown. There were many in lines at pay phones and ATM machines. There was people traffic on the sidewalks and vehicle traffic in the streets. But rarely a word was spoken or a horn honked. We were silent and empty. We were amid a sea of people but we were each alone, fighting for our lives.

    I spent the night in New York because it was too hard to get home. I watched CNN until dawn. I finally arrived at the ferry to return to New Jersey at 6 a.m. the next morning. Even all the way in Fort Lee, we could still smell the stench of the dead and the inferno burning in downtown Manhattan. That unforgettable odor was a reminder of those who lost their lives, the families that were torn apart in an instant, the destruction that we'd have to live with forever. Getting on a plane today, I still think of all of that. Then, my family in New Jersey even seemed out of reach to me.

    Today, going on a plane is like going off to war without arms or ammunition. But I'm still going to get on airplanes and go to Italy and anyplace else where there are loved ones. I can't let down Antonio because he's the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. If the terrorists had their own Antonio, maybe they wouldn't ever become terrorists. I know this sounds simple, but perhaps love is our greatest weapon against terrorists, after all.

    Part 2: Italy's Skies Stay Friendly
    Part 3: How to Pack for the New World

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