On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration celebrated 20 years of federalized security operations at BWI Marshall Airport. The Maryland airport was the first in the country to begin the new screening protocols that have become common after 9/11.
During the ceremony marking the anniversary, the TSA made sure to acknowledge some of the employees who have been there from the start. And those workers said that when you screen bags for 20 years, you’ll see things that you wouldn’t expect.
“I mean, there’s a lot of bizarre things,” said Wayne Redman, who has been on the lookout for weapons and explosives at BWI Marshall since Day One.
For one, there’s the weapons. There’ve been lots of guns and knives confiscated by screeners over the years. But other times, things turn up that are a little more, as Redman put it, “personal.”
“I don’t want to talk more than that,” he said. “Sometimes it can be embarrassing for the passenger, as well as the officer, but we do it in a respectful manner.”
You know what else travels a lot on planes? Animals. And not all of them are alive.
Tawanda Price and Brad Russell, also baggage screeners since Day One, recounted the time someone packed the head of a goat.
“Freshly cut” is how Price described it. It wasn’t wrapped well, either. The passenger only used some plastic wrap. She and Russell had to inspect it, and it was messy, she said.
“The animals,” Russell said. “Snakes, you get spiders.”
Not all snakes are silent, especially venomous ones. “You can hear it in there, or it’ll be docile,” Russell said.
There was the donkey that had official support animal paperwork, too.
Price and Russell take a professional approach to whatever they find. After all, they’re trained to be respectful in situations that aren’t necessarily common in the United States, and which might garner stronger reactions in others.
“It’s a cool job,” Russell said. “You see a lot of different things, interesting things, every day.”