JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When you catch a flight in America, going through TSA is just part of the process. Travelers are rarely happy going through security screenings, yet those workers understand why their job is so vital.
Check-ins and screenings are part of the deal in 2021, but things were different twenty years ago.
“I was working at the port when 9/11 happened and I just, it just, I had the horror in front of my eyes from the war in Bosnia and what we went through,” TSA Supervisor Rada Azizi said. “I had to do something.”
Azizi is from Bosnia and like many Americans, she remembers one of the darkest days in U.S. history. As a Bosnian refugee-turned U.S. citizen, she found a home in America and the TSA.
“Just getting my citizenship, being trusted, so much information, sensitive security information, getting the security clearance, that was amazing,” Azizi said.
TSA officers like Azizi routinely confiscate items like guns, tasers, hammers, and machetes. The TSA was created after 9/11 and every bit of security is for passenger safety. Assuring a safe flight is a top priority, so whether it’s a water bottle or a legitimate weapon, the administration doesn’t take any chances.
“If we weren’t here to guard the front doors to the airports someone would walk in the door I promise you,” Federal Security Director Brian Cahill said.
Cahill says a little more than 50 percent of all air travelers receive a form of expedited screening. He says if they had to physically search every bag that came through the system, commercial aviation would be put to a stop. He’s in charge of overseeing TSA operations at seven airports, including the supervision of officers like Michael Perry. Though only with TSA for two years, Perry does it all. Screening passengers, checking bags and making sure the travel experience goes smoothly.
“People have never met me and the people I’ve never met, they travel safely because I did it right,” Perry said.
Doing it right is something he strives for every single day. He takes his mission seriously and has traveled 1,834 miles in 46 hours in honor of the lives lost on 9/11. Last month, he visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, accompanied by friends, family, and co-workers.
“It was not easy for them to do what they did to stand and say, ‘not on our watch, this isn’t happening’ and I wanted to be sure that when I completed this, it was clear that their sacrifice was not in vain,” Perry said.
Two coworkers brought together by a tragic event, now with the same mission — to keep airline passengers safe.
“When I go home and I know all the planes landed safely and that everyone is safe, it’s the biggest accomplishment,” Azizi said.
©2021 Cox Media Group