Home » Opinion » Commentary: Trip to Los Angeles airport provokes grief, sadness for killed TSA officer

Commentary: Trip to Los Angeles airport provokes grief, sadness for killed TSA officer

A TSA honor guard salutes the picture of slain TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 3 during a moment of silence Nov. 8.

A TSA honor guard salutes the picture of slain TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez at Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 3 during a moment of silence Nov. 8. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

An overwhelming sense of heartbreak was all I felt as I got off the plane at Los Angeles International Airport one week to the moment after a man opened fire in the security line.

A man by the name of Paul Ciancia paralyzed LAX Nov. 1 at about 9:20 a.m. by going on a shooting spree leaving one Transportation Security Agent, Gerardo Hernandez, dead and others wounded.

As I stepped off the plane, I couldn’t help but notice that my body stiffened and my senses were on high alert.

LAX airport is one of the busiest and largest airports in the world with people coming and going from every direction. I am a very frequent traveler so the airport scene is nothing new to me, but on this particular morning I felt different. I felt nervous.

My nerves were overwhelming as I stopped and stood still to take a look around and realize that other people in the airport were also standing still. A moment of silence was taking place, not only at LAX but at airports across the country in memory of Gerardo Hernandez.

Some people did not seem quite as fazed by the moment as others, but to be in the airport at a time like this was truly devastating.

As I made my way further through the airport to baggage claim, I passed the security section in my terminal and once again I stopped in my tracks. The TSA agents were dressed in the traditional royal blue blouses with black sweater vests over top, but today to me, they looked different.

There were no physical signs of tears or emotional distress on their faces but it was simply an understood feeling amongst the travelers walking past security that the anxiety in this area was on overload.

The job of the TSA is to keep people safe and make sure no one is entering the terminal with anything on or about them that could be harmful to anyone. But on that fateful Friday, one TSA agent’s job put him in the wrong place at the wrong time and cost him his life.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is no mystery people are nervous and on guard while traveling, but will these terrible acts of violence continue to be a threat to travelers?

As unfortunate as it is, I understand traveling today comes with risks and it is not as simple as it once was. Security is tight, people are anxious and every step in the traveling process seems more complex than ever before. These steps are in place as precautions and safety measures to avoid horrific incidents such as this one.

I was deeply saddened by how uneasy I felt walking through the airport at LAX. The most devastating aspect to my travels this past weekend came on my trip back to Columbus on Sunday. As I handed my license and boarding pass to the TSA agent to go through security, I looked her in the eye and it was almost understood that we both knew exactly what I was feeling; guilt.

I felt guilty about going through the normal motions while this young woman was most likely feeling an immense amount of pain and loss for her coworker.

Was it appropriate to say how sorry I was for her loss? Did she even know Hernandez? Was she scared to be doing her job? These were the types of questions running rampant through my mind.

The most important thought and question running through my mind throughout my travels to and from LAX this past weekend was, will we ever be able to safely and calmly travel without worrying that the airport we are at or the plane we are boarding will be the next destination of destruction? That’s yet to be seen.

3 comments

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