Violated by TSA at Tampa airport

Scan officer frightened, humiliated traveler; treated her without basic respect.

12/12/2010 12:00 AM

12/30/2010 10:28 AM

On Dec. 3, my friend and I flew back to Charlotte from Tampa, where my friend had been to see a medical specialist.

At the Tampa airport, we were both randomly selected to go through the full-body scanner. Going through the scanner was uncomfortable and a bit creepy, but I didn't think it was a big deal until I tried to leave the scanner.

I assumed I was finished, but a female Transportation Security officer yelled at me for "trying to get away from her." She told me I had to stand in front of her - while I was still barefoot and trying to watch out for my stuff, which had gone through a different scanner - until my scan was read.

I told her I had never undergone this process and was a bit afraid, and she laughed at me and told me I didn't know what I was talking about.

The woman grabbed my wrist and said she had to look at my plastic watch. I tried to take it off and hand it to her, and she yelled at me not to interfere with her search.

Then, with no explanation, she pulled up my shirt, exposing my stomach and the top of my underwear, and stuck the top half of her fingers inside the waistband of my pants. I yanked my shirt down and told her she was not showing the top of my underwear and my naked stomach to anyone.

She put her hand up in front of me, threatened to call security and have me arrested if I "tried to get away from her again," and called security for a private screening.

I was not allowed to get my things. I was not allowed to put on my shoes. I was taken through a side door, down a dirty hall, to a dark dingy windowless storage room.

I had to pull up my shirt, and the woman put half her hand down my pants to search me. She complained that I should have cooperated originally and this would not have happened. Then I was allowed to put on my shoes and get my things.

I left the area and cried. I was touched and humiliated in ways that have never happened to me.

My friend was told nothing about me. She was made to wait, then also taken back for a private search, without being told why.

I had heard horror stories about TSA searches on the news but had no idea how bad I would feel until it was done to me. I was put in a frightening situation, had my body exposed to strangers, had nothing explained to me and felt dirty. I wasn't treated with the basic respect human beings deserve.

Next time I travel, I'll drive before I even consider flying. The time saved is not worth feeling the way I still do about what was done to me.

Local film

Not too long ago, I wrote about my friend Kent Smith, who, with the help of talented friends, made a feature film.

"The Last Passport" won awards for Best Actor and Best Director at the Solstice Film Festival. Made in just 30 days, it's an inspiring and uplifting story, and it's finally for sale.

Go to and click on "store" at the bottom. You can buy a fine movie by a local independent filmmaker, and also help one of two great local charities: Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont and the Regional Interfaith AIDS Network. So enjoy this film and help a good cause.

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