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Local travelers take extra security in stride

August 11, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - As a 24-hour cable news program droned on in the background, passengers at Hagerstown Regional Airport greeted tightened security with shrugs Thursday.

New rules in place to prevent the possibility of explosives being mixed aboard planes caused no delays at the airport, business development manager Greg Larsen said.

Other than repacking their carry-on luggage, Dawn and Chris Pitzer of Martinsburg, W.Va., said word of arrests in a suspected terrorist plot in Britain left their travel plans unchanged.

"I don't know how you feel, but I don't see how you can feel nervous about stuff like this. It doesn't help anything. I still want to travel," said Dawn Pitzer, who was flying with her husband to Las Vegas for a short getaway from their two young children.

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The new rules forced some passengers to throw out liquid items before they boarded their flights, Larsen said. All passengers had to remove their shoes, he said.

Typically, people wearing soft-soled shoes may leave them on, he said.

Like the Pitzers, most of the fewer than a dozen people leaving on a Thursday night flight said they were planning to fly on to other cities sometime that night. Most said they were unfazed by the news of the arrests of about two dozen people in a plot to blow up as many as 10 jets over the Atlantic Ocean.

All of them took fewer than two minutes to pass through their screening.

For Guy Dewardener, who flies about four times a year, Hagerstown seemed an unlikely destination for terrorists.

"Flying in a little prop plane to Pittsburgh, I don't think anybody will be bombing that," said Dewardener, of Rhode Island.

Signs around the US Airways terminal advised passengers of the new rules regarding liquids, and Transportation Security Administration staff instructed passengers to take off their shoes before they stepped through a metal detector.

"Yeah, with the heightened security, they're all coming off," a security officer told Dewardener as he took off his shoes and a watch with a brown leather band.

Outside, Karen Luther of Hagerstown sat in a van with her husband, preparing to go home after a business trip to Florida. Luther said she saw bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport in Tampa, Fla., where she got her connecting flight to Pittsburgh.

Though she heard about the new precautions being taken against the possibility of liquid explosives, Luther said she forgot to remove a gift sample of perfume and some contact-lens solution before boarding. Out it went, she said.

"Anything liquid, you had to trash, but I told him," she said with a nod to her husband, "I'm sure there were people a lot worse off than me. I saw nice bottles of alcohol (in the trash)," she said.

Asked what time he planned to make it home, Dewardener was ambivalent.

"After this morning, I have no idea, but I got rid of my toothpaste, so maybe they'll let me back by midnight, I don't know," he said.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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