By Dan Shea

We watched the TV at the airport in Phoenix, at first thinking it was a leader for some new action movie, then the second plane hit. Our abject horror was amplified by the announcement that our flight was boarding.... Which we did, until they shut down all flights and evacuated the airport. Two days in hotels, then a decision to drive the 3000 miles back to Maine, and Deb, Kyle, and I were back safe at home. We didn’t want to go through checking 18 machine guns in those escalating hysterical circumstances, anyway.

While we might have been somewhat inconvenienced and stressed, we all knew there were a whole lot of people having a MUCH worse day, and our prayers were for them. God Bless.

On the Small Arms note, these guys used small knives, and box cutters- a razor in a holder- as well as fear and intimidation. No one was armed on the flights, of course, and thousands of lives drastically changed or were lost in just a few short hours. Where, oh where, did we go wrong? I have heard that on the news, constantly repeated, and said in regard to every aspect of this tragic situation.

Here’s one small rant.... Two weeks before that Day With Fear, I had been in Logan airport in Boston, and been talking with Delta’s personnel about the ineffective and arrogant airport “Screeners”. I believe the text was something about “Flipping burgers” and or “Mopping floors” instead of pretending to do security. Traveling through Cinci, I just had my computers and cameras in a carry-on, and the drooling moron at the screening station was slapping it around- when I said I had my cameras and computers in the case and would like to be there when they opened it, he said “You might have a GUN in here” and called over two equally incompetent young women who did everything they could to bait me into making a scene. If you have any background, you know the type- bored with a morning full of doughnuts and coffee, a brush with a rushed business man they can jerk around is better than watching “Rosie” on a mini tv stashed in the back.

The point? There wasn’t a single thing that they did that would have protected anyone. They didn’t know what to look for. I watched the guy looking over my digital camera as if he were a monkey inspecting a football. Not a clue as to what it was. Readers of this magazine know what we could be carrying- and even with the trumped up safety inspections, could STILL carry through those gates. Back in the Eighties we did a test for some LE that entailed taking wallet guns, pen guns, plastic knives, etc, through airport screening. Not one thing was ever caught.

We need real security. That doesn’t come at minimum wage. They need training, thorough background checks, good wages, and more training. Everyone at the airport should be gone through with a fine-toothed comb on his or her background. The Hell with politically correct thinking, which is what has gotten us into most of the problems we have here, we need to know about the people who are in positions that can be compromised. They need to be fluent in English, the language of the United States, and for those who are bilingual or trilingual, they should get a bonus. Spanish, Japanese, French, and a host of languages should be represented at those stations in the major airports, but English should be fluent for all involved.

It is impossible to say that better security would have stopped the tragedy- I believe it would have been less likely to play out, but I know one thing for sure- if there had been armed people on those planes, we wouldn’t have had near the problems that we did on September 11, 2001. Pilots and some crew members should be allowed to discretely carry sidearms. Certain passengers should as well- off duty LE or military who have special training, Air Marshals, and probably other frequent flyers who are qualified. We need ammunition that is lethal and will stop someone immediately, but won’t break the airplane skin-, which is relatively thin aluminum in most cases, but it is possible and some of SAR’s readers are working on that right now.

Let’s tighten this up on our end. Support arming pilots and some crew members, support qualified carry of sidearms on planes, support good pay and good training for airport security, and for all of our sakes, let’s support some thorough background checks on the personnel who work in our infrastructure- airports, trains, etc.

God Speed, and God Bless to all of those who are going into harm’s way to hash this out.

- Dan

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N3 (December 2001)
and was posted online on March 28, 2014


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