On Friday, in the very early morning, before the sun had yet to even start to rise, we set out to the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. We were on our way back to Jamaica. Unfortunately, we missed our flight and were re-booked on a later flight, so we were in the airport right before the horrible and tragic shootings occurred.
We missed the shootings by minutes. We had just taken off when we heard murmurings from other passengers of a shooting in the airport. Where we just were? I thought to myself. We turned on one of the televisions on our seat. And were horrified.
Just that morning, I had been wondering what I would do should a gunman (and they are always men) attack in the airport. What would I do to protect my daughter? What would my instincts drive me to do? How would I shield her? How would I run with her? Luckily, we were in another terminal, but five other people were not and they lost their lives, while more were injured.
Prior to the shooting, security had been on my mind because we had not been required to take off our shoes, nor take our laptops out of our bags. It certainly made the process easier, especially with a child and a stroller, but I was wondering, why the sudden changes to protocol? I hadn’t heard anything about it, but did recall that changes were to be made earlier in the year. Check out a speech from TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger here.
But this was during the summer, and I had flown since then, without noticing any new protocol. In any case, the process on Friday was strangely streamlined and simple. Given the time of year, I was expecting longer lines. We were greeted at the line to enter security screening by a stern young man, then an adorable sniffer dog who paid us no mind. Then, the line, three rows deep, moved pretty quickly. I did observe, however, what seemed like additional TSA agents just standing around, watching. We were ushered through so fast I wondered what was going on and no one even questioned the cup of coconut water I had for my daughter.
The shooting occurred in the arrivals area, so the screening process for the alleged perpetrator would have happened at his departure point. And individuals are allowed to carry a weapon in luggage. But what of security screening in general? It always seems a futile, reactive exercise, especially when individual rights take precedence.
So this individual did what he was permitted to do, collected his luggage, went to the bathroom, presumably where no one could see him, then proceeded to kill and wound innocent victims. It is inconceivable for most people, but imagine his frame of mind to carry this out, to anticipate it during the long plane ride south. Is it an issue of society’s attitude to mental illness? To the right to bear arms? To individual rights versus the greater good? Who knows.
But as ever in the history of the United States, it seems the greater good and security and individual rights are still at odds, with individual rights and convenience and economy seeming to win out.
Thoughts and prayers are with victims and their families.