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POST-SEPTEMBER 11 AIR TRAVEL, PROFILING, PREDJUDICE, DONUT-EATING SECURITY CHIEF, NEWSPAPER-READING POLICE DUTY OFFICER, AND TOM RIDGE -- WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?

So there I am, with my dear wife Patti and my beloved two-year-old child Meghan, at half-past nine on a sunny morning the week before Thanksgiving, returning from a pilgrimage to the adopted home town – Louisville, KY – where we visited with my family. We have two hours until we are scheduled to get on an express jet direct to Liberty International (Newark, NJ) airport.

Unfortunately, two Middle Eastern men walked menacingly down the concourse and plopped themselves down in the waiting area chairs. The fictional lobe of the brain kicked in: You see, one of them is 6'5" tall and is wearing orange pajama bottoms and a coat you could only find east of Beirut, has a demonic looking face and a 40-year-old suitcase, which would be too big for carry-on. The second is a powerfully built man with a shaved skull and a backpack big enough to carry a small calf, and he is missing one hand (incorrect grenade release in the West Bank?).

If I were traveling by myself, naturally I would just keep a weather eye peeled for these men, and if they approached the flimsy cockpit door of the regional jet, I would stand up and offer "Let's Roll" resistance. But I'm not alone. I look at my wife, who has turned white as a ghost. I look at my two-year-old, playing with a newborn puppy down the row of seats. I look at our Middle Eastern friends, who are forehead-to-forehead, glancing at their fellow passengers like a defense attorney examining jurors. Have you ever felt like someone walked on your grave?

After September 11 my wife and I agreed on a Standard Operating Procedure for air travel. It goes like this – if we're waiting for a plane, and if people who fit the classic profile of hijackers are waiting, we switch planes. I nod at my wife and approach the counter of the airline I won't mention (it begins with a "C" and ends with "ontinental") and say, "Put us on the next plane."

The gate agent glares and asks why.

"See those two gentlemen? I ain't flyin' with them."

The gate agent looks astonished, then peeved. "Sir," he says with righteous indignation, "we are not allowed to racially profile passengers. Their tickets are as good as yours."

"Listen, pal," I said, "you have a serious problem. Those guys fit the profile, and as to this airport's security, no one checked my ID, so how do I know someone looked at theirs? As far as I'm concerned, those guys should be in a dark room with a swinging light bulb and asked some important questions like, 'may I see your passport?' You can't profile? Well, I can, and I'm not flying with them. You got a problem with that, get your supervisor."

So he does. The supervisor takes one look at our friends, and two minutes later I have three tickets on a flight taking off three hours after the one I was scheduled on.

We're walking back to the nonsecure area of the terminal, and a sense of duty to my fellow Americans kicks in. I go to the security duty officer and a Louisville police officer and bring them both into a huddle. "Gentlemen, we have a problem," I begin. I explain the situation, concluding with, "you guys are strip searching grammas and four-year-olds while guys like that are boarding regional airline jets bound for New York, just like the morning of 9/11. They need to be checked out. You need more information, here's my card. I'll be here for at least three more hours." They look uncertainly at me, but decide to meander tentatively down the corridor. I never heard from them, and as far as I know, nothing was done.

That's not the end of the story, of course. Three hours later, as we're boarding the later flight, with baby, wife, diaper bag, car seat, stroller, briefcase and purse, who do you think security detains to get the full "remove your shoes and belt, please, sir" treatment? I'm sitting there with no wallet, no keys, no belt, no boots, no jacket, with an electronic wand waving over every body part – okay, I can see that, I'm 6'1" and let's just say I'm over 200 pounds. But the baby? Remove the baby's shoes? Hold the baby while we scan her for guns? Come on, guys! This is simply retaliation.

Tom Ridge, if you or any of your staff are reading this, you need to get two things done -– (1) establish a toll-free hotline so citizens can report suspicious things to people who care rather than to officials too busy eating donuts to get off their stool, and (2) cut out this security screening of those who obviously don't fit the profile of terrorists. If you want random screening, fine, roll dice. If a seven comes up, strip that person down to their Jockeys, but if you're searching based on intelligence, then let's use some.

By the way, I didn't blow up the plane. I don't know if my Middle Eastern friends got into trouble elsewhere or if they behaved because they got the hint that their cover was blown.

So I'm a bad guy – I profile and stereotype. But my two-year-old is safe and happy, watching Elmo right now.

[EMERGENCY DEEP]

MORE! On EMERGENCY DEEP

EMERGENCY DEEP:
First in an electrifying new series from “A MASTER RIVALING TOM CLANCY.”

--Publishers Weekly

U.S. Navy submarine commander Peter Vornado is at the top of his game in underwater warfare when a devastating illness takes him out of the service and almost to the grave. Without duty, honor, or something to fight for, his life is as good as over.

But the CIA needs a man like Vornado…

A terrorist cabal has acquired a scrapped Soviet sub from the Cold War -- a technologically advanced failure still able to outrun any torpedo or enemy vessel and strike at will. With a nuclear payload, it will enable them to strike directly at Israeland throw the world into chaos. All that remains is to modernize the sub with the latest technology.

Only one man can infiltrate the group, take the helm, and stop a holocaust -- a man who has already stared down death, and is ready to do battle once more…

“Compelling and visionary. DiMercurio’s characters run as deep as his submarines themselves!”

--Joe Buff, author of Crush Depth and Thunder in the Deep

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terminalrun.com
Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey
E-mail:
readermail@terminalrun.com

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