It is not a secret that air travel has become much more difficult since the 9/11 terror attacks. Security has been heightened and passengers have been subjected to humiliating pat downs and body scans all in the name of Homeland Security. For most people, a little humility is a small price to pay for safety in the air.
It has been subject of debate for some time now as to who should or shouldn’t be scanned. Recently, a 95-year-old, cancer stricken woman was subjected to a pat and was even asked to remove her incontinence briefs all in the name of security, according to a report on CNN.com.
The cancer patient, whose name was not released to provide her with anonymity, was flying from the Northwest Florida Regional Airport to Michigan, where she was planning to move into an assisted living facility closer to family. Her daughter, Jean Weber, accompanied her on the trip.
During the security pat down, agents told Weber that they felt something suspicious on her mother’s leg, leading them to take her into a private room. Upon returning from behind closed doors, the security agent told Weber that her mother’s incontinence brief was wet and instructed her to take her to a restroom to remove the garment. Although Weber says her mother was “quite calm” through the whole ordeal, she was upset to have to travel through the airport without undergarments. Weber was also subjected to a series of security screening after becoming emotional due to the ordeal her mother was encountering.
Weber told CNN that she was disheartened by the policy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which allowed its officers to subject her ill mother to such invasive procedure, "If this is your procedure -- which I do understand -- I also feel that your procedure needs to be changed," she said. Weber added that her mother has a form of leukemia and needed a blood transfusion just to garner enough strength for the trip.
The TSA, however, feels their officers were justified in making such decision and stood by their actions. "While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner," the federal agency said. "We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."
Elderly adults are traveling
With older adults delaying permanent residence in senior living settings, such as nursing homes or assisted living communities, traveling by air is going to increase. In fact, there are hundreds of companies like ElderTreks, AARP and AAA devoted to travel and travel discounts for people aged 50 and over. ElderTreks goes so far as to offer exotic adventures such as African Safaris, polar expeditions and hikes through Europe and the Middle East; all for designed specifically for the mature traveler. With such adventurers taking to the air, airports and their security personnel may be forced to make similar decisions to screen elderly travelers who are looking to see the world or visit with their families and friends.
Terror doesn’t discriminate
If we’ve learned anything since 2011, terrorist know no race, sex or age, and maybe just maybe there was something more in that adult diaper. Is it better safe than sorry, or do we allow complacency and fear of embarrassment to dictate who gets subjected to rigorous security? If that’s the case, are we walking the fine line of reverse profiling, based upon age and health? The best advice: if you’re planning a trip and need to travel by air, be prepared to be searched. No one is exempt.
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