Traveling in a Post-9/11 World
Travel through BWI Thurgood Marshall airport has significantly changed in the 10 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011.
This article was created as part of a larger project in coordination with Action America to document how the country has been affected by 9/11. See how you can become an Actionist and turn the events of 9/11 into positive action at ActionAmerica.com and look for more local coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Patch.
When four planes were hijacked by terrorists in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the way people travel in the United States was forever changed.
Prior to 9/11, security screening procedures were left up to individual airlines, said Jonathan Dean, spokesman for BWI Thurgood Marshall airport. But in November 2001, the federal government established the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
According to the TSA website, the organization was created to do three things: take responsibility for all modes of transportation; recruit, assess, hire, train and deploy security officers for 450 commercial airports from Guam to Alaska within 12 months; and provide 100 percent screening of all checked luggage for explosives by Dec. 31, 2002.
Federal screening guidelines—such as sending shoes and belts along a conveyor belt for X-ray screening—were a direct result of the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, changes that TSA put into affect.
“In the weeks and moths following Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government took over the responsibility of airport screening,” Dean said.
And TSA began at BWI, he said.
"From the beginning they’ve tested procedures and technology here at BWI. We served as a test airport,” he said.
Aaron Hartlove, a Parkville resident who said he's flown into and out of BWI many times both before and after 9/11, said he's seen the changes.
"From a personal standpoint, I feel more tense going through security," he said. "Before 9/11 it was fairly routine. I didn't think much of [the screening process] ... But now I feel more tension."
Hartlove said things at BWI, and other airports, were more casual before the attacks.
"My wife could go back with me without a boarding pass [to the gate], but now they don't allow it," he said. "Now you can't travel with liquids [in carry-on luggage] and you have to take off your shoes and your belt ... It's like getting almost partially undressed to go through security."
The security checkpoint in the B concourse, which was developed in a post-9/11 world, Dean said, focused on creating a larger space for queuing and a larger space for all of the new technology being used for screening passengers.
“TSA wanted to create a calm environment to reduce the level of stress for passengers,” Dean said. “The lower the level of frenetic energy, the easier it is for officers to pinpoint potential threats.”
The desired calm environment was done addressing everything from giving officers headsets so they could communicate without shouting and even installing “mood” lighting.
“Security for travelers is the highest priority for BWI. We’ve worked for years to implement new technology to increase the level of security and also create a positive travel environment,” Dean said.
Hartlove said wasn't sure that he necessarily felt more safe with all of the changes made my TSA over the years, but acknowledged that there have been no more attacks since the government took over transportation security.
"I don't know that I feel much safer even though as a law-abiding citizen—a nonthreatening person—I feel more tension going through security," he said adding that he assumed tension would be there for someone who was planning an attack. "But if people are determined, they're determined. "