BOSTON (CBS) – The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday it was doing away with a plan to allow passengers to carry small knives and some other formerly banned items onto planes.
This comes as a relief to those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. “My initial reaction was what the heck are they thinking,” said Christie Coombs, whose husband Jeff was on American Airlines Flight 11 which took off from Logan Airport. “Initially I didn’t understand the reasoning and I talked to a number of different officials at all different levels of security,” she explained.
The original proposal, which was announced in March, would’ve loosened the rules for carry-on luggage. TSA Administrator John Pistole maintained the knives and other items couldn’t enable terrorists to cause a plane to crash. One argument, cockpit doors are now reinforced.
Looking for the knives, he’d said, took time that could be better used searching for more serious threats like explosives. “I absolutely think that knives could be a major danger,” Coombs said. And the saving time argument didn’t make any sense to her, considering you’d have to check the knives to make sure they were allowed. “You have to stop and bring out the knife, open the blade, measure it to see if it is a locking blade and measure to see if it is less than two and a half inches.”
The family of Sara Low, a flight attendant on Flight 11, was also upset by the possibility. “Whenever Pistole’s defense was it’s the TSA’s job to look for items that could cause catastrophic damage to me and my parents it sounded as though, the flight crews and the passengers as collateral damage and expendable and they most certainly are not,” Alyson Low, Sara’s sister said.
Her family wrote a letter to Pistole, outlining their strong opposition to the move. It said in part, “Our Sara Elizabeth was working business class on Flight 11 out of Boston. She had to have witnessed in part or all, the stabbing of flight attendants and the murder of a passenger and the pilots, all by knives.”
“They didn’t use guns. They didn’t use bombs. That’s how they got access to the cockpits, they stabbed flight crew members to gain access,” Low said by phone from Fayetteville, Arkansas. She doesn’t know if Pistole saw her family’s letter, but she hopes it made an impact. “We hope in some small way our input helped. It was helpful to us to take an active part,” she said.
The plan drew fire from members of Congress, the airlines, labor unions and some in law enforcement. On scrapping it altogether, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a statement which said in part, “Travelers across the country will be safer because of it.”
Christie Coombs, along with other Massachusetts 9/11 families had planned to meet with TSA officials in Boston prior to hearing today’s news. They’d also been invited to meet with Pistole during an upcoming visit to Boston. “We tried to pull that meeting together but it was short notice and we didn’t have enough families available to make it happen,” she said. The group keeps an open dialogue with the TSA.
She plans to inquire further into what led to Pistole to scrap the plan to allow small knives and some sporting equipment, but is relieved the ban will stay in place. “You have to draw the line somewhere and as far as I’m concerned you draw the line with any knife,” she said.
To read more about Christie Coombs work with the Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation, go to www.jeffcoombsfund.org.