Security at BWI continues to confiscate banned items

Many say they forgot the objects were packed

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 20, 2001|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Just beyond the conveyor belts and ticket counters at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where security officers wearing rubber gloves smell deodorant sticks and shake shampoo bottles, Chris Rupprecht is keeping a close eye on a Banana Republic shopping bag.

In it are more than 30 pocket- knives, two handfuls of scissors and a smattering of loose, double-edged razor blades and box cutters. There is a monogrammed money clip with a knife the size of a pinky finger, a wrench with a sliver-thin blade and a spoon-and-knife silverware set whose matching fork is probably west of the Mississippi by now.

Heavy as it is, the bag includes only about 10 percent of the items Southwest Airlines officials have collected in the past two days from Pier B. And that's the inventory from just one of the airport's five piers, monitored by one of BWI's nine major domestic airlines.

"I knew we would see certain objects, but it's more than I thought it would be," said Rupprecht, Southwest's customer service manager at BWI. "I'm amazed at the number of pocketknives."

It has been more than a week since hijackers armed with box cutters hijacked four planes at U.S. airports, plunging the nation into grief and pushing airlines to a level of security few passengers have experienced.

Despite countless news reports admonishing travelers to leave anything resembling a dangerous object at home, not everyone is getting the message.

"We didn't have any idea," said Beverly Rangel, who stood with her family as security guards confiscated a hairspray can from her daughter's luggage.

Rangel, who lives in Oklahoma City, said she had been avoiding news reports and was unaware of the banned items.

Rupprecht said some passengers had forgotten that they packed knives and that others forgot they were carrying small knives attached to, for example, a key chain.

That's probably what happened with the monogrammed money clip, he said.

"It's probably not the most menacing knife in the world," Rupprecht said as he flicked the money clip's blade. "You'd probably be lucky to slice a piece of cheese with it. But the fact is that it is a knife."

Southwest does not plan to return the confiscated items to passengers.

Security officials searched John White, the airport's communications director, as he went to lunch. First, his belt buckle, then his zipper, set off the metal detector. A U.S. marshal watched as a guard patted White down.

Still, White said, "We're getting back to normal here." Yesterday, 680 of the airport's 750 daily flights were scheduled to take off.

From now on, travelers must choose whether to eat inside or outside the security checkpoints. Because X-ray machines were damaged by spilled coffee and half-eaten hamburgers, the airport prohibited open food or drink containers from going through the checkpoints.

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