Thoughts on Travel Into/Out of the United States

I have been daydreaming recently about how easy it used to be to fly.  For those of us who traveled before 9/11, our biggest worry may have been ‘what movie is being offered on the plane?  Or should I ask for the pretzels or peanuts?’

Boy, travel sure has changed since then.

Thanks to the antics of the “Christmas Day bomber” over Detroit, the rules and processes for entering the US resulted in a bit of Transportation Security Administration lunacy.  First, we were told that airlines landing in the US would not be permitted to allow passengers to stand one hour before arrival.  Then we were told that no one could cover their lap with a blanket, jacket or anything else, including a magazine.

I had to ask myself the obvious questions: Couldn’t someone light their undergarments 1 hour into a flight (vs 1 hour prior to landing)?  Or couldn’t someone ignite something hiding in the sleeve of a shirt (vs on their actual lap)?  Wasn’t this getting a bit silly?  I mean really, if you’re willing to blow your private parts up for the sake of terrorism, I think you could get up an hour and ten minutes before landing and achieve the same outcome in the toilet vs. in your seat?

I don’t mean to minimize the importance of security.  I want to be safe at the airport and on the plane as much as the next person. Yet, when I really stop and think about the number of flights going into and out of any major airport in the States, I am humbly reminded that safety cannot ever be guaranteed.  That is, unless each person that attempts to get on a plane arrives 6 – 10 hours before a flight, is strip searched, has a body scan, has every item in their possession analyzed and tested for chemicals and after the trauma of all of that, likely will need some emotional comfort before proceeding to their seat! (After all, we do love our therapy in the US!)

But really now – who wants to live in a world that has to operate this way?

Considering the number of flights that depart/arrive in the US each day, we seem to have relatively few security issues.  Statistically, we are doing pretty well.  Yet when something does go wrong, the TSA’s response is to come up with knee-jerk, laughable rules that last a week until someone sits down and realizes how truly ridiculous they are.

Somehow, instead of laughing, I just feel rather sad about the whole thing. I feel such a deep loss that a young man could be convinced that setting off an explosion in his underwear would be a useful and productive way to communicate a message of anger and hatred.  I even feel sad about the loss of his future, one that once appeared so promising. I feel for his parents and imagine their confusion and horror. I feel for the people on that flight who could have lost their lives. I think of their families and friends, particularly since I went to high school with a remarkable young woman who died on Pan Am 103.  How does one go on when such a tragedy occurs to a loved one?

And at the same time, I cannot help but think –  Is  it more ridiculous to blow up your undies than to have to monitor how much water you drink on a flight because you can’t get up 60 minutes before you land?

And today I am asking myself – what went wrong in this world that I have to write such a horrific blog post?

  • Charles Norrie

    When my brother died in a Libyan terrorist attack (provably), UT-772, I discovered I had a common acquaintance with Dr Jim Swire of the UK Lockerbie Families group UKFF103.

    This world is much smaller than one thinks!

    • Dear Charles,
      I am so very sorry to hear that your brother was lost in such a tragic way. Please accept my condolences.
      The world is indeed small! I did not know Dr Swire, but the family of the young woman I went to school with is very involved in justice for those killed on PanAm103. I applaud them for their drive, especially after all of these years.
      Wishing peace for this planet,
      MIssy