“I’d rather be safe than dead,” said George DeGruccio, who flew into
LaGuardia Airport from Florida to visit family for the holidays.
He said he left to board the plane earlier than usual, expecting long delays after the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 en route to Detroit. But upon arriving at the airport, he was surprised, and alarmed, by what he saw.
“Everything seemed normal,” said DeGruccio. “They were randomly inspecting carry-ons, but there were no discernable delays.”
Like many other passengers, DeGruccio was shaken by the Christmas Day incident over Detroit, but regardless of any lapses he perceived from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), he still had a flight to catch.
“Extra security is a great inconvenience, but it’s for our safety,” he said. “As for the TSA, any organization that would let someone on a plane with what he had on him is clearly missing the mark.”
Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab allegedly tried to blow up the Detroit-bound flight by igniting a small explosive device sewn into his underwear. The device failed to detonate properly, and he was tackled by alert passengers after his pants caught fire.
On Monday, December 28, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, in a reversal of her former stance, said that the security system “did not work.”
On the same day, Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, according to published reports.
In response to the attempted bombing, Governor David Paterson announced a supplementary force of approximately 80 National Guard soldiers who will provide support during peak travel periods at both John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports.
The task force will also patrol ground transportation hubs on New Year’s Eve.
Following the attempted act of terrorism, most air travelers felt that the incident underscores the nation’s lack of progress in homeland security since 9/11.
“I don’t feel comfortable at all,” said Gail Sheehy of New York. “We
know of the horrendous security lapses on 9/11, and now we’re right back to the same thing.”
That sentiment was echoed by many other passengers, including Ken Hicks of Queens, who felt current airport security measures are sound, but are not being followed properly by TSA employees.
“I don’t think they need to add more security, they just need to follow the rules more closely,” said Hicks. “That man [Abdulmuttalab] should have never been allowed on that plane.”
But not everyone thinks the TSA is doing a terrible job, or that Abdulmuttalab’s foiled attack reflects on the agency’s screening process, as he made his transfer to Detroit in Amsterdam.
“There is always a fear that something may happen, but I don’t regularly feel that vulnerable, especially when I’m flying inside the U.S.,” said Rahil Shafi, arriving from Tennessee.
Other passengers saw the long wait and extensive security at the airport as something to expect in a post-9/11 world, and anticipate having to arrive for flights up to three hours before departure.
“If you pay any attention to the media and what’s going on, you’ve got to know,” said Lou Jainchill, who was picking up his family arriving from Rio de Janeiro at John F. Kennedy International Airport. “Showing up early is common knowledge.”
For the most part, passengers at the city’s two major airports would gladly wait in longer lines if it meant an increase in their safety.
They just hope that the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA were roused by this most recent lapse.
“When incidents happen, you expect them to be more vigilant,” said
Aaron Kaufman, a Queens resident flying to Detroit, adding, “You want them to be more vigilant.”