Daughter: DIA security roughed-up mom, 83

Bogart Family ©
Bernice "Bea" Bogart, 83, is shown at her youngest daughter's Tennessee home Wednesday night. Bogart will turn 84 next week.


* Share your airport security horror story

By Chris Barge, Rocky Mountain News
March 31, 2006

Sally Moon had to cool off for the better part of this week before she could see straight enough to write a complaint about a security agent's treatment of her elderly mother at Denver International Airport.

At first, she couldn't settle on the right words to use. "Horrific," "mind-boggling" and "outrageous" were a few that came to mind.

Anyone could see that Bernice "Bea" Bogart, 83, was a fragile woman, Moon said. Bogart had breast cancer surgery in 1997, a total hip replacement after a fall in 1999, a major stroke in 2004 that caused dementia, and is hard of hearing.

So when Bogart, who was in a wheelchair, was required by airport security on Saturday to stand against doctor's orders and undergo a rigorous screening by a testy female screener, Moon got furious.

"I don't know if she thought my mom had a bomb in her Depends or what," Moon said.

A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said Thursday that a high level of professionalism and courtesy is expected from its screeners and Moon's complaint is being looked into.

But Moon doubts anyone will be held accountable.

This week, she sat at her computer in Colorado Springs and e-mailed the TSA's Office of Civil Rights.

"Although I imagine this complaint will go straight to the trash and the agent responsible will face no consequences and receive no reprimand, I could not sleep until I at least voiced my outrage," she began.

Moon said that at about 6 p.m. Saturday, she and her sister were walking alongside their mother, who was in a wheelchair being pushed by a Frontier Airlines employee to a special screening area at the head of DIA's Concourse A.

Just before reaching security, Moon's sister, who did not have gate clearance, was asked to sit in a chair away from the screening area while Moon and their mother proceeded.

Bogart was holding an orthopedic card saying that she had a metal plate in her hip.

Having been assured that Frontier and the TSA staff would not require Bogart to leave her wheelchair, Moon turned her back to put her mother's bags through the X-ray screener.

Moon said she was horrified when she turned around moments later to discover that her mother had been selected for additional screening and was out of her wheelchair and hobbling through a large glass- walled corridor.

"There were no grab bars," Moon said. "What I could see really was her fingers trying to hang onto a little ledge."

Fearing another hip-shattering fall, Moon instinctively reached out for her mother.

"Don't touch her!" Moon says the screener barked.

As the elderly woman shuffled along, Moon said she continued to tell the screener that her mother was not to stand without her four- wheeled walker.

"You'd better change your attitude," Moon recalls the screener saying. "Or do you want me to make it so you don't fly today?"

The screener allowed Bogart to sit down for a moment and then instructed her to stand up and lift her arms, Moon said. Bogart could barely raise her arms due to the breast cancer surgery and so the screener lifted them higher herself, Moon said.

Infuriated, Moon protested and said she was told to sit across the room "or else."

"I know she prolonged her search because she was mad at me," Moon said.

Bogart had been nervous about flying alone for the first time since her husband's death last year. She sat back down in the wheelchair after the screening in shocked silence, her daughter said.

Two hours later, Bogart was in the air, en route to Nashville, Tenn., to visit her youngest daughter for a month. Moon marched back to security to give management a piece of her mind.

She demanded the name of the young screener in her mid-to-late 20s with darkish hair pulled back in a bun.

A TSA manager refused to give her the screener's name, Moon said, and suggested she file a general complaint.

Several days later, Moon did just that.

"If you've read this far, I'm surprised," she wrote in closing. "But if you have, you can now toss this letter, send me one of those form letters indicating you take these kinds of complaints 'very seriously' and are going to investigate the matter, blah blah blah, and get back to more important activities."

Moon can expect a response from the TSA's Office of Civil Rights, Denver TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said.

"When we receive complaints, we take them very seriously, we investigate them and we address any personnel issues as appropriate," Harmon said.

Reached at her youngest daughter's home in Nashville on Thursday, Bogart said she didn't want to get anyone in trouble and emphasized "they were all kind except for that one girl. I thought she was a little harsh."

"I thought it was a little much," she added. "She wouldn't let my daughter help me. And I have a hard time standing very long at a time at all."

DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon expressed surprise at Bogart's tale, but said ultimately the airport has no authority to regulate the TSA, which is a federal agency.

"I honestly don't know why they would have made a woman in that condition get up and walk through secondary screening," he said. "I'm sure it's all a misunderstanding, but we hate for those things to happen and we wish they wouldn't happen."

bargec@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5059