Well, the Transportation Safety Administration—the dreaded “TSA”—has done a lot of publicly embarrassing things in its time (I myself have been goosed by its agents innumerable times), but this is the worst incident yet, and should prompt some major soul-searching at that odious agency.
According to both WREG in Memphis and the Guardian, the TSA did some very bad things to a disabled cancer patient. Nineteen-year-old Hannah Cohen, who has been suffering from a malignant brain tumor for 17 years, which has left her partly blind, deaf, and paralyzed, was trying to fly home to Chattanooga, Tennessee after treatment at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, a cancer facility in Memphis.
Hannah had apparently made that flight hundreds of times over the years for treatment, but this time something went wrong: the scanner went off. The culprit, it seems, was her sequined shirt. Here’s what happened next (from the Guardian):
Agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a “sterile area” where they could search her further. She was afraid, Shirley said, and offered to take off the sequined shirt as she was wearing another underneath, but a female agent laughed at her.
Seeing the scene begin to unfold, Shirley hobbled to a supervisor standing nearby. “She is a St Jude’s patient, and she can get confused,” she said. “Please be gentle. If I could just help her, it will make things easier.”
But soon, a voice on the public address system requested more agents to report to the checkpoint, Shirley said. “That’s when the armed guards came.”
The brain tumor had left Hannah blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and partially paralyzed, so when the guards grabbed each of her arms, it startled her, she said. “I tried to push away,” she said. “I tried to get away.”
The guards slammed Hannah to the ground, her mother said, smashing her face into the floor, which the complaint alleges left her “physically and emotionally” injured.
Shirley had just picked up her phone from the conveyor belt, and she snapped a photo of Hannah on the floor: handcuffed, weeping and bleeding.
Hannah went to the hospital, and then to jail, for crying out loud! I’m not sure what the charges were, but when the judge got a look at Hannah and her disabilities, he dismissed the case. Now the family is suing the TSA for $100,000 (I think they should go for more). When the TSA was asked for comment, this was their response—completely unfeeling:
. . . a TSA spokeswoman, Sari Koshetz, said in a statement that “passengers can call ahead of time to learn more about the screening process for their particular needs or medical situation”.
Hannah’s mother responded:
“Why should I do that when we’ve been going through that airport for 17 years?” Shirley said.
“These people think they are God. They think they can do anything they want,” she said. “Well, in this country we have the Americans with Disabilities Act. And if they will do this to a disabled girl, does that mean they’ll do it to an 80-year-old grandmother? It’s time for justice.”
Yep, the TSA roughs up a disabled, long-term cancer patient who got confused, slamming her to the ground and bloodying her, and doesn’t even apologize. What are these people thinking? Did they really think they had to use that kind of force?
All they say is “call ahead to learn about the screening.” I wish someone would sue them out of existence.