D.C. Area Airports
Liquids and Gels Discarded With Weary Surrender
Friday, August 11, 2006
Calvin Klein perfume and L'Oreal mousse, toothpaste and mouthwash, shampoo, hair conditioner, nail polish and deodorant (stick and spray) -- they all got chucked yesterday as travelers emptied their shaving kits and cosmetic bags in the latest ritual of an airport security crackdown.
Gallon after gallon of bottled water in just about every shape, brand and size were also forsaken. The crackdown came as airport officials expanded the list of banned items after the breakup in London of a plot by terrorists planning to blow up U.S.-bound passenger jets with liquid explosives hidden in carry-on luggage.
It created a state of manageable pandemonium that lasted for hours at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall, Reagan National and Dulles International airports. But the disruptions were endured in an overall spirit of solidarity and goodwill as word of the plot sank in.
"I came this morning thinking all this stuff is just overkill. I'm just not sure the balance is right between inconvenience and all the security," said Karen Solon, 62, a retired preschool teacher from Falls Church who was flying from Dulles to Canada. "Then they told me about this" plot.
By afternoon, the crowds had thinned and calm had returned but for the occasional moment of drama.
"I'm having a meltdown !" one overstressed maid of honor at National hissed into her cellphone.
But hours before, the scene was chaotic as early-morning passengers began arriving.
Security checkpoints became clogged, creating lines that snaked through the terminals. At BWI, screeners were so thorough that they confiscated toothpaste from air marshals, who carry guns. Police patrolled the terminals with machine guns and sniffer dogs, and fresh signs were posted: "NO LIQUID OR GELS PERMITTED BEYOND SECURITY."
Some security officials taped the advisories to their backs. Others carried megaphones.
"Mascara is not permitted to go!" one shouted. Allowances were made for baby formula and prescription medicines.
As Transportation Security Administration officials struggled with the backups, passengers fretted about whether they would make their flights, whether the new precautions made sense, whether someone would actually try blowing up airplanes with a gel-like substance. Some wished they could cancel their flights, and at least one couple did. And sometimes, though infrequently, their tempers erupted.
"They were basically yelling at whoever they could find," said Zayna Topallar, American Airlines' baggage service manager at National.