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As Long as We Remember...

December 15, 2011

Painful Though It Be, Itís Necessary

Blaine R. Young

As we go into the second decade following the September 11th terrorist attacks, there is one thing that no one can dispute that has changed in the American way of life. That is air travel.


Obviously, security at airports has been stepped up dramatically over the last 10 years, and it has been an interesting evolution.


We started with the so-called “random” searches. Under this strategy, which was clearly designed to avoid any hint of profiling in a very sensitive and nervous nation in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, passengers were singled out on a random basis for thorough searches.


I remember an amusing parody of this process when the Capitol Steps played a performance at the Weinberg Center soon after September 11. In the skit, a little old lady was strip-searched while Darth Vader was allowed to walk on by and board the plane. That skit had a lot of truth in it.


Now we take off coats, shoes, belts and anything else that seemingly is not nailed to us and run them through x-ray machines. No problem. Air travel is such a pain these days that a few extra minutes in a security line turns out not to be a big deal.


And recently we have seen much discussion about body scanners. This technology to me looks promising, as it could dramatically speed up the boarding process while at the same time keep us safe.


Of course, there are people who don’t like it. They call it an invasion of privacy. Well, in this country everyone has got a right to an opinion, and it seems that it is our destiny to have to hear them all. It will be interesting to see how this issue resolves itself.


But what got me thinking about all this was a “Morning Update” from Rush Limbaugh that I heard on WFMD-AM the other day. Rush was commenting on a story in the news where an elderly woman supposedly was strip-searched by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel.


Now I like Rush as much as the next person, but I think he went a little overboard on this one. In the first place, we don’t know that this ever happened. TSA officials adamantly maintain that they have reviewed the security tapes and there was no strip-search. Secondly, Rush seems to denigrate everyone who works not only for the TSA but for any governmental agency who has anything to do with keeping us safe in the skies. I certainly have been critical of many aspects of government in my career, and likely will continue to be so, but sometimes it does a good job.


Now, I am not saying that airport security and the protocols now in place are without fault and cannot be improved upon. Far from it. I want to see investments in new technology to make this burdensome – but necessary – process, easier on us all.


But for me, like in sports, the final measure is the scoreboard. And since the 9/11 attacks the terrorists have hung a big fat goose egg on the board.


That’s right, although clearly there have been attempts, many of which we cannot and may never know about because of security concerns, not one death has been caused in the skies or at airports by terrorists. And I for one would like to keep it that way.


So, my vow to TSA employees is that I will not be surly when you make me take off my shoes. I will not growl when I have to take my laptop out of the case and put it in a separate container; and I will give you no dirty looks when the lights flash and the buzzer goes off at the metal detector because I forgot to take a stick of gum out of my pocket.


Keep up the good work.


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