Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting a Sweetened Deal with Airport Security (or Lack Thereof)

Like many people, I've been glued to the news coverage about Bonnie Sweeten, the mom from Bucks County, Pa. who reported on Tuesday that she and her 9-year old daughter were abducted by "two black men."

For starters, this is home turf for me. I know exactly where the intersection is where Sweeten claimed to have called 911 after being stuffed in the trunk of a Cadillac after a fender-bender.

Let me enlighten any non-Philly natives: that's an extremely busy, congested intersection 24/7. Having driven through there on numerous occasions, I can tell you that any minor fender-bender - much less one that involved a white woman and a 9-year old kid being grabbed and stuffed into a trunk - would be sufficient to cause a traffic jam for miles. That's just how we roll (or don't) here in Philly. I mean, in the City of Brotherly Love, it's very commonplace to listen to a traffic report and learn that a road is backed up for miles because of the phenomenon known as the"gaper-delay" (i.e., a traffic jam caused by drivers slowing down - delaying others - because they need to gape at the mishap causing the traffic jam to begin with.)

But let's put that aside. There's a lot of blog fodder in this story: the false accusation by Sweeten that the "crime" was done by African-American males. The seemingly laissez-faire abandonment by Sweeten of an infant daughter and a teenager. An out-for-blood general public's rush to judgment about moms who (ohmigawd!) have a different last name than their children. And now, allegations of Sweeten's stealing from a local foundation established to raise funds for kids with autism, among other things, and the yet another black eye this casts on legitimate, law-abiding fundraisers in what is already the most challenging fundraising environment of our time.

I could (and may) write about all of that in the days to come. But one aspect has been absent from the news coverage (at least locally here in Philly) and that is this: how in the hell, nearly eight years post-9/11, was Bonnie Sweeten able to purchase two one way tickets to Disney World in cash and sail through airport security with someone else's ID?

Doesn't this concern anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Apparently not. Because nobody, nobody is talking about that.

And that's a bit of a problem for me. You see, I'm someone who, while flying with newborn twins in the immediate months after 9/11, was randomly selected for "enhanced secondary screening" which meant that the TSA searched every fucking Huggies diaper that we had in our seven pieces of luggage. Our stuff - all baby paraphenalia - was searched up and down the whazoo as if Betty and Boo were discovered to be hiding out in the caves with Bin-Laden himself. (No, I'm not still bitter about the inconvenience. Why you ask?)

You could make the argument that the airport security officials didn't know about Sweeten's apparent abduction, since an Amber Alert hadn't been activated until later that evening. Fair enough. But it still doesn't answer the question in my mind of how this was allowed to happen.
Someone (or several someones) working security at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday afternoon was still in holiday weekend mode and asleep at the metal detector. Quite simply, that is not acceptable in this day and age. Maybe there's more to this than is being reported. I'd like to think some sort of investigation is going on, but I doubt it.

What the Sweeten story says to me is that we simply do not know anyone in our lives. We're all pretenders. We're all imposters. We're all carrying fake ID as super-mom and uber-school volunteers, trying to stay on top of kids' activities and schedules, working and juggling it all.

But it's one thing for me not to know the intricacies of my neighbors' lives. And being somewhat anti-social, I don't really want to. I'm betting that not knowing my neighbors' doings isn't going to lead to a tragic event and I'm not losing sleep at night because of such.

Clearly, there are a few domestic issues going on in the Sweeten home. And when the TSA fails to give the hairy eyeball to someone paying for one way tickets to Florida in cash and proffering a false ID, there's a few more domestic issues at play, too.


Gershwoman said...

If it makes you feel better, I read that the FBI was actually on the case. The "Red flag" was apparently raised when she bought the tickets in cash for that same day. The FBI watched them get on the air plane and watched them arrive in FL and go to the Disney resort hotel and check-in before they moved in. Why let it go that far? I don't know, but I am guessing they were watching to see what she was going to do, before they moved in.

Melissa said...

It is a bizarre story ... that's for sure ...