Los Angeles was the lay-over stop on the way to my destination of Portland, Oregon, where I’m spending a few days visiting my sister before catching another flight back to Los Angeles for a week's visit with my daughter, son-in-law, and two grand babies.
My seat-mate on the Columbus- Los Angeles leg of the trip was a friendly young computer engineer from India who had just finished his master’s degree at Ohio State and was now heading to Los Angeles to start a job. The youngster was nervous and excited about his new job and his new life in Los Angeles – he’d never been there before – and he and I bonded over Combos which I shared from my stash.
It was when I told him that I visited Los Angeles often, usually several times a year, that he asked if I found the trip wearing. I assured him that I didn’t at all, that I love flying, I find it peaceful and relaxing, and I like airports, too.
At that point I almost asked him if he felt any fear of being in two international airports today after the terrorist attack in the Brussels airport two days earlier. But then I decided not to bring it up, not to in any way diminish for him the savor of this moment, even though chances were thoughts of Brussels loomed somewhere above or below or off to the side of his mood of happy excitement. Chances were everyone of us on that packed flight, and on every flight around the world yesterday, had that unspeakably horrible event stowed somewhere in mind.
I thought about Brussels at 6:45 am yesterday morning when I arrived at Port Columbus,
While I stood in line at the baggage-check line I people-watched and wondered,
No one, I felt sure. We were all just fellow travelers, each of us with someplace we wanted or needed to get to.
The TSA agents were friendly and nice, even the one whose job it was to give me quick shoulder and outer-arm pat-down after I stepped out of the x-ray machine.
At the end of the security conveyor belt stood a small, thin, nervous-looking young woman in jeans and a long-sleeved tee-shirt with dark hair and eyes. As I passed by two security agents were pulling everything out of her duffle bag while two men in suits and ties stood on either side of her. She spoke quickly and in a foreign accent. "No, I, I was there but now I came back."
"No, what I'm asking you," one of the men said gently, "is, what is your reason for coming here?"
I continued on to find my gate then I walked back towards the security area. Now the girl was sitting hunched in a chair next to the conveyor belt, the two men in suits standing over her.
I left to find some breakfast and a few minutes before my flight I returned to the vicinity of security. The girl and the the agents were gone.
If the TSA officers found no reason to detain her, I thought, then she's been permitted to go on her way, having suffered no worse than the aggravation of heightened security. If she's still under suspicion then she's in the hands of the authorities.
Nothing bad was going to happen here, I reminded myself as I stood in line to board my plane. At least not today.