Student Travel Plans Resume Despite Terrorist Threats

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Although recent statistics indicate that the number of passengers taking to the skies has dropped significantly since Sept. 11, members of the GCC community are apparently determined to proceed as usual with their holiday plans.

Korean student Sean Park is not concerned. “The Government these days is doing really well searching for terrorists. I believe they would catch anyone who shouldn’t be on an airplane before anything dangerous happened.” He hopes against any repeat of Sept. 11 this Christmas.

The terrorist attacks that rocked the nation initially resulted in an adverse reaction by an American public that was suddenly terrified of public transportation. The absence of continuous human traffic sent a harsh chord echoing loudly through vacant airport terminals.

According to the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Traffic Comparison (TCOM), domestic and international passenger traffic in October 2001 decreased by nearly 29 percent in comparison to the previous year’s numbers. Many officials speculated that the decline would continue throughout the holidays.

However, at GCC, programs that would necessarily flounder at the prospect of terror in the skies are actually seeing an increased interest in the activities that they offer. According to Jose Mercade, director of GCC’s Study Abroad program, the number of applicants for certain trips has actually gone up since the attacks.

“We have an upcoming trip planned in which we’ll be traveling to Australia and New Zealand and at no point did we ever consider canceling those plans,” said Mercade. “Before Sept. 11 we had 14 applicants. Afterward 15 more people signed up and no one dropped out.” Destinations offered by the Study Abroad department for the summer semester include locales in Japan, Greece and Prague. Although applications were only recently made available, Mercade has already received preliminary requests by students to take part in the events.

Overall, it appears that the air has cleared since the attacks. Now that the action isn’t so high profile, it’s easy to overlook the fact that a war continues to rage on overseas. Living in Southern California affords GCC students with a relative sense of security afforded by the fact that they are so removed from the actual remnants left over from the gruesome events. Mercade pointed out that the best way to soothe anxiety is to be well-prepared.

“Our primary concern and responsibility obviously lies in caring for the group,” said Mercade. He advises students and faculty to simply follow security guidelines posted by the airlines in order to quell any anxieties that surface before a trip.

“In other countries, for example, Israel, airport security actually interviews every passenger before allowing them to board,” Mercade said. “People apparently think this is the best way to screen for possible threats.”

Although he doesn’t believe that this kind of system will be introduced any time soon to U.S airports, Mercade offered that he was a little surprised that a higher interest in security hasn’t been taken. Perhaps the lack of interest can be attributed to the same reason members of the GCC community aren’t afraid to fly.
Dr. Philip Kamara-Kay, a GCC instructor and counselor affiliated with GCC’s International Student Center division, students from overseas are also maintaining a calm perspective on the current state of the nation.
“Overall, everyone is basically going about their lives as they have always done, ” said Kamara-Kay. “I think for most people it’s important to not let events such as these interfere with their goals and dreams.”

Interviews with a random sampling of International Students at GCC reinforced Kamara-Kay’s opinion. According to Sutadji Gunaway, a student from Indonesia, his plans to finish up his B.A in the U.S have not been altered since Sept. 11.

“I’m not going home until I’ve completed my undergraduate education out here,” said Gunaway. “However, even if I were going home for Christmas I don’t think I would be afraid to fly. We’re really far away from New York and I just feel removed from the danger.”

Like their U.S citizen counterparts, international students studying at GCC have managed to persevere over the prospect of additional terrorism, a threat that continues to hang in every news broadcast this season. Apparently, the further away the danger lies, the less of an impact terror will wreak on any given population.

Yuki Hatano, a GCC student majoring in film, is planning on heading home to Japan in December. Her anxiety level is low, due to the fact that she will not be flying with United, American or any other domestic airlines.

“I think that traveling with these [international] airlines carries less of a risk than it does when using commercial flights within the U.S,” said Hataho.

Asako Morino from Japan feels that conditions are actually safer to fly nowadays due to the stricter security measures.