First Air Travel After WTC
I wrote this after flying for the first time after 9/11.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 21 June 2001

My first flight after the World Trade Center disaster was also my first time riding the new airport line of the MAX rapid transit system in Portland. Giving myself lots of extra time for both the train and the increased security that I was expecting, I left my condo around 4:00am and boarded the train around 4:08am. The ride to the airport took about 45 minutes.

My flight today was a day trip to San Jose for work, and I had packed a small carry-on bag. I was glad for the opportunity to bypass the Alaska Air check in counter, as the waiting line looked long and painful. So far everything at the airport was the same as it had always been.

Things changed at the security check point. A staging area now existed, and I was prompted for proof of ticket. This reminded me of travel in England about 6 years ago, where they had the exact same setup. I showed them the electronic confirmation from the Intel travel service that I had printed from the web site, and after a brief examination, the man waved me through. I used to think that this procedure was pointless, but I now know that by only allowing ticketed passengers to go through the x-ray, the airport doesn't have to waste precious security resources on people who aren't even going to be flying.

Next came the traditional conveyer belt X-ray machine, with a few rules. First, jackets go through the machine along with the bags. Wallets are supposed to go inside either your bag or your jacket. Laptops have to come out of the bags; and since I was carrying three laptops, this was a little awkward and abnormal and I was worried that it might draw attention to me. At this point I had absolutely no metal on my body and I thought I would breeze through the X-ray.

Wrong! The machine buzzed almost immediately, and I was directed to wait in a separate area for wanding. Here after a brief wait (2-3 minutes), a man proffered many apologies for the pat down I was about to receive. Since I had absolutely nothing on my person save clothes at this point, I was interested to see what he would turn up. The rivets on my blue jeans buzzed first. Then the steel shank in my shoes. And finally my belt buckle, which the man asked me to unbuckle and then bend my pants forward so that he could verify that there was nothing dangerous hidden behind the buckle. This security scan gets the Presto Thumbs Up. I am pretty confident that no metal contraband could have survived that scrutiny.

The final check came right before boarding. Alaska announced on the P.A. that this one particular person (with a very foreign name) would be checked, along with a random selection after that. As it turned out, the woman pre-selected had a two huge carryon bags, so they only had enough time to do hers. Later on my return trip, I saw four people randomly searched. Overall, this procedure also gets an appreciative nod.

My feelings from the whole experience are positive. Even the sight of armed soldiers with machine guns didn't make me feel a loss of liberty as I thought it might. Indeed, I was glad for their presence, and reminded of a line from "A Few Good Men" that goes something along the lines of "a soldier says, 'nothing is going to get you - not on my watch.'"

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