- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Good news for the region and the country came yesterday morning when President Bush announced that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport would, indeed, be reopening this week, albeit under the strictest security of any airport in the nation. "There is no greater symbol that America is back in business than the reopening of this airport," the president said during remarks given at the terminal of Reagan airport. "The opening of Reagan National sends a powerful message across this country that America stands tall," said Virginia's Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Left unsaid but equally important is that by reopening the airport, Mr. Bush and America have decided not to allow the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to cow them into cringing submission. As important as it is to be vigilant against possible future attacks, it is equally important, perhaps more so, not to live in fear. Steps can and will be taken to make it less likely that attacks similar to the ones that took place almost three weeks ago can be successfully launched from Reagan. But the possibility cannot be eliminated without closing the airport, as some security experts advising the president had suggested. It was good they were over-ruled.

More than symbolism was at issue here. According to estimates by regional officials, the closure of Reagan airport was costing the region something like $10 million per day in lost economic activity. Thousands of people have been laid off work, and the ripple effect of these layoffs and closings has already had a damping effect on the broader economic picture of the D.C. area. Even reopened to limited traffic some 800 flights daily will be operating beginning tomorrow, or about one-quarter of the airport's capacity the damage done by three weeks of inactivity and attendant uncertainty is massive. City officials have said that the decline in economic activity caused by the attacks of Sept. 11 and nearly a month of idleness will result in a shortfall of at least $80 million in lost sales and income taxes over a six-month period.

These costs probably could not have been avoided given the need to bolster security at Reagan airport, which is a mere 30 seconds or so by airplane to such targets as the White House, the National Mall and other federal buildings. It's terrible to have to think in such terms, but much worse to allow terror to keep us hunkered down in our basements, afraid to go outside.

Many thanks are due to Mr. Bush for reopening Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and for providing the country the needed reassurance that a resumption of flights there implies.

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