Airport Security Then & Now

This week has been one of remembering and self-reflection. Here’s one memory I’d like to share. 

If I was growing up today, I’d probably be in a lot of trouble.


When I was about seven years old c. 1992, we took a family vacation by plane. My mom told me I should pack a few toys to keep myself occupied on the flight. So I did.

We drove to Newark Airport, checked our bags and proceeded to pre-9-11 security checkpoint. I put my little Ninja Turtles backpack onto the x-ray belt, and my bag disappeared into the black box. I had no idea what was going on, but I innocently watched as the guard turned a ghostly shade of white and looked like he was about to shit himself.

I was a very obedient child and in accordance with my mom’s instructions, I packed my favorite toys. These were mostly plastic pistols, grenades, and a knife that had little chew marks in the blade from my baby brother gnawing on it. I probably also had a few action figures mixed in for good measure.

As I mentioned, this was 1992. The pre-TSA security guard opened the bag, showed the toys to my parents, and everyone calmly explained that I should keep these toys in the bag on the flight, and next time we should put toys like this into the checked luggage. That was it. We were free to go, and my parents had a good laugh because they should have seen it coming/ the look on the guard’s face was priceless.


If this would have happened today…

  • My family would have been detained. My parents, grandparents, baby brother. All of us.
  • We would have been questioned and searched like criminals.
  • We would have missed our flight.
  • My favorite toys would have been confiscated.
  • We would have been happy with any resolution that didn’t involve criminal lawyers.

The fact that it was a completely harmless mistake caused by the innocent mind of a child would have been completely lost in the bureaucracy of our very expensive security theater.

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