OPINION – In this post 9/11 world, I thought the safest places on Earth were airports.
I mean, with minions from the Transportation Security Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, frisking us, looking at our naked bodies through special x-ray machines, and forcing us to the airport hours before boarding so we can jump through their hoops, I figured the last thing we needed to worry about was some bad guy stealing an airplane.
I guess I was wrong.
On Tuesday, a suspended SkyWest pilot stole an airplane from the St. George airport. He didn’t use a gun, box cutters, or threaten with a bomb.
All he needed was an old piece of carpet and some gloves, which he used to scramble over the fence to make his way into a twin-engine, CRJ200 jet airliner owned by the airline.
He didn’t get far, thankfully, but he was able to make his way into the aircraft, fire up the jet engines and taxi in a random pattern that led him to scrape the side of the airport terminal, crash through a security fence, and drive across some airport landscaping before coming to a stop, where he put a bullet into his brain.
The man was wanted by police in Colorado Springs who were investigating the stabbing death of his girlfriend, whose body was found in her apartment last Friday.
Now, you can write this off as the actions of a whack-job if you like, but, quite frankly, there is some responsibility here that neither the City of St. George nor the St. George Police Department is owning up to.
This is the second major incident at the airport in less than two months now—the first being a fatal early morning crash that killed four people on May 26—yet comments from city and police officials are rather nonchalant, if not downright flippant.
One account of the incident quoted the city attorney as saying that everything worked “just the way it’s supposed to.”
So, standard operating procedure is for nobody to become concerned after a man with a gun made his way to the runway of the airport, boarded a commercial jet airliner, fired the engines, and started moving it about, because it ended successfully when he capped himself with the handgun?
If only we could have been so lucky the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Airline, police, and city officials also seemed to shrug the incident off by saying it took special knowledge for the man to board the aircraft and start the engines.
Four of the 19 al-Qaida terrorists involved with the Sept. 11 attacks were trained to fly jet aircraft, the other 15 were used as musclemen to subdue the crews and passengers during those ill-fated flights on that tragic day.
It was supposedly a different world then, when the terrorists slipped through security checks unabated, even though some were on government watch lists.
Nobody took the threat seriously.
Today, they supposedly do, which is why we all gave up certain civil rights to travel in airplanes.
We allow government agents to feel us up as we pass through the boarding lines, look at pictures of our nakedness, go through all of our luggage, pull us out of the line for further investigation if we “look suspicious,” and, for the most part, do whatever they wish to us at the airport.
The job is left undone, however, when local governments and agencies figure that having one cop patrolling the perimeter of the airport after hours is sufficient.
That’s why it is unconscionable that nobody in St. George is being held accountable for what could have been a major tragedy had this man decided to take innocent lives with him, whether he had intentions of pointing the aircraft at Las Vegas or a St. George neighborhood.
Budgets are tight and times are tough, but what price do you put on human lives?
I’d say they’re worth more than a downtown carousel.
St. George, you got lucky.
Just remember, luck always runs out.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.