The Other Side of the 95-Year-Old Granny and the TSA Story

by Greg Pollowitz

Keith Olbermann jumps in and calls for TSA head John Pistole to be fired over the search. Transcript via the Daily Caller:

“Our winner John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration – you have heard this story, too, right? Jean Weber is taking her 95-year-old mother Lena Reppert from an airport in northern Florida to Michigan for cancer treatment and special care,” Olbermann said. “She is in a wheelchair and after the TSA agents pat Ms. Reppert down and insist her daughter remove her mother’s adult diaper, which was used, the mother is stoic and cooperative. The daughter bursts into tears. So now the TSA agents have to frisk her, too, because her conduct is now deemed unusual. The daughter misses the flight and her 95-year-old mother has to travel alone.”

There are two stories here. There’s the conduct of the TSA (which needs to be changed ) and the conduct of the daughter,  Jean Weber, and how she treated her mother. Part of Olbermann’s outrage is that Weber missed the flight causing her mother to fly alone. But from the news reports I’m reading, it was Weber’s intention that her dying mother fly by herself from this tiny airport in Florida to Michigan, connecting through Atlanta I might add.

This is from Bloomberg:

Weber, a waitress, said she was told the diaper would have to be removed so the agents could finish their pat-down. They had not packed any extra diapers in their carry-on because her mother has never needed backups before.

“She had to remove them,” Weber said. “She would not be cleared with those Depends on.”

TSA officials said the agency’s inspectors did nothing wrong and followed proper procedure. Spokesman Nick Kimball also said the officers did not force Reppert to remove the diaper.

“While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner,” Kimball said.

Officials offered to pull their luggage off the plane so Reppert could change into a clean diaper, but Weber said she feared her mother, a retired nurse, would miss her flight.

“She is frail. I had arranged for these times because it’s the time she was the strongest every day,” Weber said. “I just did not want to put her through some kind of wait.”

However, Weber said the agents would not allow her to remove the diaper in the screening room — so she had to take her mother to a restroom outside the security area, and then wait in line to be screened again. The second time, Weber said she triggered an alarm herself because she was upset and crying.

They tested her purse for chemicals while her mother finished her pat-down in private, she said. By then, she had lost her pass allowing her to escort her mother to her gate and asked airport workers to take the woman.

“It was a traumatic moment for me because I know my mother is very ill and hopefully I can get up to see her before anything happens,” Weber said.

So, let’s recap. We have a dying 95-year-old woman who needed a blood transfusion just to travel. We have reports from the daughter that the mom can barely stand. She’s in an adult diaper, which is soiled, meaning that although Weber says they never needed extras before, there was at least some risk of an accident happening on the flight. When the TSA noted the soiled diaper, Weber declared they had no spares. TSA official offered to pull the checked bags and get the extras, but was refused because Weber thought her mother might miss the flight and a delay was somehow medically unacceptable. And, more importantly, according to this Bloomberg report, Jean Weber didn’t have a ticket on the flight, but a pass to accompany her mother to the gate and help get her on the plane.

We can be as outraged as we want at the TSA, but when does personal responsibility enter into any of this? There was no plan to take care of this 95-year-old woman during this trip. If there’s a link out there that says Weber missed the flight, please shoot it my way. But that doesn’t change things as why would Weber let her mother on that plane if she couldn’t be with her?

Before I get accused of being insensitive on the subject, my 86-year-old father is in roughly the same condition as this woman. We recently had to move him from his home in Pennsylvania to a facility in Kentucky to deal with his ever worsening dementia. My father is incontinent and if he had an accident in flight, an episode of dementia or any other health scare, there’s no way we would have been able to deal with it. Flying would have been easier for our family, it would have been cheaper but he’s not in a condition to fly.

You could be as mad as you want at the TSA over this, but I don’t think they ever should have been put in a position to have to screen the passenger in the first place.

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