Each Friday on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin I answer a reader’s question. This week everyone has the same question: Should I worry about traveling on 9/11?
On Thursday, U.S. government officials warned of a credible but unconfirmed al-Qaida threat to use a car bomb on bridges or tunnels in New York City or Washington to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The warning follows an updated travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department on Sept. 2 noting the upcoming anniversary and reminding U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad “of the continued threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates.”
“In the past, terrorist organizations have on occasion planned their attacks to coincide with significant dates on the calendar,” the alert said.
The warnings may have some American travelers wondering: Do I need to take any extra precautions as the day draws near?
The consensus: No need to stay home, but on this day especially, be alert.
“As we head into the 9/11 anniversary weekend, we continue to urge the American public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday. “Simply put, if you see something, say something.”
Security officials say they are, as always, prepared. “As with any other significant day or peak travel period, passengers may notice an increased security presence at airports and mass transit systems,” said TSA spokesman Greg Soule.
Alex Puig, regional security director for the Americas for International SOS and Control Risks, said that while “the heightened security posture of the authorities is warranted by the symbolism attached to the date … the main impact of the 9/11 anniversary on travelers is expected to be delays associated with that increased screening at access points to and within airports and other transport facilities such as subways.”
Puig added that the presence of large crowds at and traffic restrictions around the planned commemorative events is likely to disrupt travel and activities nearby as well. “Travelers should particularly anticipate well-attended gatherings in New York City and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Mike Kelly, president and CEO of On Call International, said 10 years ago his company’s call center helped a lot of clients rearrange and re-work travel plans on and after 9/11. “We would not advise against travel on 9/11 this year. Rather we would suggest several ways in which to travel informed and prepared.”
Kelly suggests staying tuned to the news and connected via telephone and social media in case of travel alerts and events that may affect your trip. He also suggests packing some food items and an extra supply of medications (in their original containers) in your carry-on bag in case of unexpected delays.