Are We Really Going To Criticize American Airlines For This?!

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Last week, American Airlines used various social networks to share a great picture taken by @bee.kreates and originally posted to Instagram. The picture, as you’ll see below, shows a silhouette of an aircraft flying across a Chicago skyline and while it got nothing but positive comments on American’s Instagram feed, some of the comments on Twitter were considerably less complimentary.

Here’s the image in question which appeared alongside the words “Two words: iconic skyline”:

a plane flying in the sky above tall buildings
Picture reproduced with the kind permission of @bee.kreates

And here are some of the comments that appeared under American’s post:

a screenshot of a social media post

a screenshot of a social media post

a screenshot of a social media posta screenshot of a social media post

a screenshot of a social media post

a heart and text on a white background

Ok, before I go any further let’s get a few things very clear before the keyboard warriors go into full-on attack mode in the comments section.

  • No one is denying the utter horror of the atrocity that was carried out on 9/11
  • No one is denying the lasting damage that was done to the families who lost loved ones as a result of what happened on 9/11
  • No one is saying that witnesses to 9/11 weren’t affected in a truly terrible way by what happened on that day
  • No one is denying that PTSD is a very serious mental health issue that should never be ignored or taken lightly
  • No one is saying that people haven’t the right to still be upset and traumatized by what happened on 9/11

I *am* saying that criticizing American Airlines for sharing this image is ridiculous and wrong.

Firstly, we’re just a few months from the 20th anniversary of 9/11 so almost two decades have passed since the United States saw its first foreign-led terror atrocity on home soil. If after 20 years we’re still not allowed to post images of an aircraft anywhere near a tall building just exactly how long do we have to wait? Is 20 years too soon but 25 ok? And who gets to decide?

Secondly, the image in question doesn’t even show Manhattan or any other part of New York. Does this mean that 20 years after 9/11 we’re still not allowed to post images that show an aircraft in the same shot as a tall building regardless of where the image was taken?

Would posting this image to social media be in bad taste, an example of being tone-deaf, or “incredibly stupid”?

a train station with a plane flying in the sky

Sure, it’s only a picture of a turboprop coming into land at an airport almost 3,500 miles away from downtown Manhattan, but it’s still a picture depicting an aircraft lined up with a tall building. Is this not ok?

How about this one?

a plane flying over a group of tall buildings

In this picture, the aircraft is clearly not going anywhere near any of the skyscrapers and if you’ve visited London you may recognize that skyline as Canary Wharf (so it’s definitely not Manhattan), but would posting this image to social media also be in bad taste?

I’m going to go ahead and guess that some people will say yes…and that’s pathetic.

No, it’s not pathetic to have PTSD, and no it’s not pathetic to have been seriously affected by the horrors of 9/11, of course not. But believing that 20 years after a tragic event it’s ok to try to censor images that may have some very vague relevance to that terrible day most definitely is.

If twenty years after 9/11 someone is still genuinely triggered by the image that American Airlines re-posted (I suspect most of the Twitter whiners weren’t really triggered and that they were just seeking attention) they probably haven’t been given the help they need and we, as a society, should probably be doing more to make sure that they have access to all the help we can offer. No one should be left to suffer from the mental scars of that day.

Telling us, however, that it’s not ok to post a picture of an aircraft against a Chicago skyline because it may bring back memories of an atrocity that took place 20 years ago in a completely different city is wrong.

It’s wrong for a variety of reasons but, primarily, it’s wrong because censoring images in this way would be handing victory to the terrorists.

Terrorists are called terrorists because the motives for their heinous crimes include the wish to see their victims terrorized into submission. They want their victims terrorized into giving up their normal lives, terrorized into living in fear, and terrorized into changing how they act and think. If posting a beautifully taken image of an aircraft silhouetted against a city skyline wasn’t in bad taste pre 9/11 it certainly shouldn’t be considered to be in bad taste 20 years later because that’s exactly what the terrorists would love to see happen.

Do people really think that those who perished as a result of the atrocity on 9/11 would want us to tell people not to post a picture of an aircraft near some tall buildings 20 years after the event? Do people really think that the first responders who gave up their lives on that terrible day gave them up so that those of us who survive them can tell people not to share images of aircraft near tall buildings 20 years after the event?

A distressing number of people died on 9/11 while trying to make sure the terrorists didn’t meet their aims, so isn’t it up to us to follow their lead and make sure the events of that day don’t change our everyday lives?

There is absolutely no shame in still being affected by the events of 9/11 and no one should ever be told that they shouldn’t talk about how that day still makes them feel, but berating an airline (or an individual) for sharing an innocent picture 20 years on is not the way to make things better.

While we should focus a lot of effort (possibly more effort than we’ve made so far) into making sure that everyone truly affected by 9/11 gets all the help we can offer, the only way we can make sure that the 9/11 terrorists never achieve their aim is by not letting them cow us into fear and submission, and not letting their violence change how we go about our everyday lives. That all starts with not telling people that a perfectly innocent image is inappropriate or tone-deaf because, 20 years after an event, some think that it may be triggering.

If you feel you’re still affected by the terrible events of 9/11 please consider seeking help. A good place to start may be the government’s World Trade Center Health Program (link).

If anyone has any other suggestions or links for programs that are still offering support to those affected by 9/11, please share them in the comments section below.


  1. Great comments and article. The picture was excellent to the point of being art. Everyone is sensitive to something. For me, any picture of Jane Fonda triggers memories of her damage to our POWs in Vietnam. But I don’t try to stop anyone publishing her picture.

    If someone can’t cope get them the help they need. Don’t try to censor the world.

  2. The last photo may cause pain and suffering because it shows HSBC, who is leaving retail banking in the US. Some expats depend on HSBC. Therefore, anyone who posts such photo should be shamed and banned.


    Your post has malware blocked just now.

  3. So I have PTSD from 9/11. I can’t watch tv coverage or videos of the attack. I will never forget the smell of burning flesh or the body parts strewn about when I was at ground zero. That being said, when I saw this picture the other day on AA’s Twitter feed I thought to myself, “what a cool picture of downtown Chicago.”

    Never crossed my mind that this was supposed to “trigger” me, and it still doesn’t. The people getting upset about this on behalf of others are idiots. Just stupid. Not everything in the world is offensive and I say this as a liberal.

  4. I was on a plane in NY when 9/11 happened. This picture and comments are great in my opinion..

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