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September 10, 2011

Kansas remembers 9/11: The TSA workers

The people featured in this package suffered personal loss from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, endured fallout from them, or worked in fields that evolved in a world changed by them. Their stories, shared with Eagle reporter Fred Mann, are presented here in their own words.

Shana Castellanos and Waylon Turner are supervisors with the Transportation Security Administration, which was created after the attacks to screen passengers and baggage on commercial airlines. They talk about 9/11 and the TSA’s work since 2002 at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Castellanos: "I was at home and my father called me and said turn on the news. It was just absolutely heartbreaking to see what was happening to all those people, and to our heroes who went into the buildings to rescue others."

Turner: "I worked third shift at Walmart the night before. I came home, took a little nap, and woke up the same time it happened. They were showing these planes hitting buildings. You're thinking, man, this is a lot of people losing family members. I know what it's like, and to see this happen to thousands of people, it would be devastating. You're thinking, if it is terrorism, what can I do?"

Castellanos: "I was a waitress, and I thought, I can't be a waitress forever. I came here in 2005. I'm here because I would like to play a role in preventing another 9/11. I want to keep our passengers safe."

Turner: "I thought it would be something I could learn from and a way to give back to America and support freedom. That's one thing they've tried to take away from us — our freedom to travel."

Castellanos: "Some people are unhappy with the TSA before they even experience the screening process, whether from the media, or their own personal feelings about it. I just talk to them and try to calm them down the best I can and treat them with respect and dignity, even though they might not return the favor."

Turner: "I remember one of my very first days, a passenger saying, 'I'm scared to touch anything.' It was a whole new mindset for the traveling public. I just let people know we're people, too. Just because we're federal government doesn't mean we don't have feelings, or family, that we don't go through the same things they go through."

Castellanos: "I've always just taken the time to explain the process to the passengers so they know what's happening to them. The more information they have, the calmer they are. I treat them professionally and smile. If you're kind to them, usually they're kind to you."

Turner: "I think as the years went by, we just kind of grew on them. Ninety-nine percent are fine with everything. Then you have the 1 percent that want to cause problems or stir something up on purpose. Maybe they're just having a bad day. You just smile, talk to them, let them know the procedures and hopefully next time it'll be a far easier trip.

"As far as why we're here and what we're doing, we're reminded of that every day, whether it's in in-briefings, out-briefings, intelligence we get every day..."

Castellanos: "The threat is real."

Turner: "We know there's a method to the madness. Some people say, 'Why are you taking this liquid?', or, 'Why is this too big to go?' I'd expect you to know, but if you don't know I'd inform you right then and there."

Castellanos: "We get intelligence briefings about what's going on in the world and what's going on in the country, what people might be planning. We have about 3,000 passengers some days flying out of Wichita and that's a lot of people to take a chance that they're all going to be good people. We only have to be wrong one time."

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