As I sit and write this post, 24 hours after this event took place, my hands still shake... with rage and with terror.
I woke up this morning to my husband's alarm clock, sat straight up in bed and thought "Where's Jackson?" with fear paralyzing me.
My worst nightmare took place yesterday. Worse than events that have taken place and that I have survived in my short 28 years of living. Worse than my wildest of dreams could conjure.
My son was taken from me.
My son was taken from me by the TSA agents at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport yesterday.
He was taken away from me and OUT OF MY SIGHT because his pacifier clip went off when I carried him through the metal detector.
According to the Transportation Security Administration website, "We will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child or children."
You took my son. MY SON.
Here's what took place... minute by terrifying minute...
I had Jackson in his stroller, his diaper bag, and a duffle bag which contained my mac book as I entered security. I placed all of these items on the conveyor belt to go through the metal detector. Jackson was in my arms, and in the midst of getting all of our gear on the conveyor belt, my mistake was neglecting to take off my son's pacifier clip that hangs from his shirt, which is metal.
The instant I walked through the metal detector with Jackson in my arms, we beeped. I knew exactly why.
I told the TSA agent, who asked me to back up and walk through again, "It's my son's pacifier clip, can I put it on the conveyor belt?"
"Ma'am turn around and come back please," I was told.
Of course Jackson's clip went off again. Both Jackson and I were then escorted to a 6 ft tall plastic holding box because I was forced to wait for a female TSA agent to search me.
At this point in time, all of my belongings were sitting at the opposite end of the conveyor belt, thereby backing up every other passengers belongings because I was not there to gather mine.
A woman out of the kindness of her heart (and if you are out there somewhere reading this, THANK YOU) saw me just standing and waiting in my 6 ft plastic box and gathered my belongings for me. She waited with my stroller, my diaper bag, my duffle bag and my mac book. This woman motioned to me that everything (including my flip flops) was all together and then she left.
She must be a mother.
I was so grateful.
4 female TSA agents stood at the end of 2 conveyor belts, gloves on their hands, none of them searching anyone, none of them doing anything but watching luggage pass through the conveyor belts.
It was at this point in time that I realized my flight was leaving in less than 45 minutes. I had not even been searched yet. I began to panic.
Through the 6 holes in the plastic box that contained Jackson and I, I began asking for help. I waved to all 4 female TSA agents, each of them looked at me and then looked away. Then I started speaking through the 6 holes, and said, "Can someone please search me? My flight leaves in less than 45 minutes."
Each of the 4 women answered me using the same exact phrase...
"Ma'am you need to wait. I don't care about your departure time."
Eventually one of the four female TSA agents opened the door and let Jackson and I out of our plastic containment box. We were escorted to a chair that was opposite from where my belongings were. I asked if I could bring my belongings over or take a seat closer to where they were. I was told no and to take my seat.
At this point in time, my heart began to race, thinking we would miss our flight and I would be stuck in the Atlanta airport with Jackson for who knows how long until there was another flight to Baltimore.
The female TSA agent stood in front of me while I sat with Jackson and she continued to watch luggage come through the conveyor belt.
"Ma'am, can someone please just search me so we can be on our way? We are going to miss our flight," I said.
The female agent then called an older gentleman, also a TSA agent over. The male TSA agent stood in front of me and said "I'm going to have to pat down your son."
With Jackson still sitting in my lap (he was being so good despite all of this chaos) I said ok and continued to hold on to my son, expecting the male TSA agent to start touching Jackson.
He then told me, "I'm going to have to pick him up to inspect him."
I rolled my eyes and sternly told him "It's his pacifier clip that went off, can't you just run that back through the belt and let us go. We are going to miss our flight."
The female TSA agent, who had been standing there the entire time said to me, "You need to adjust your attitude and do as you are told."
The male TSA agent repeated, "I'm going to have to pick him up to inspect him."
I handed him my son.
I handed him my son and he walked away with my child.
My eyes welled up with tears, I stood up from my chair and I asked the female TSA agent, "Where is he going? Where is he taking my child? Why is he leaving?"
Jackson, while being whisked away looked at the male TSA agent awkwardly and repeated "no no no no."
I started crying.
The female TSA agent did not answer me.
Panic set in. My hands began to shake. My body was sweating. My breath was short and my heart was racing.
They had taken my child and not told me.
Jackson was out of my eye sight.
I could not see my son.
Now sobbing, I repeated my questions to the female TSA agent.
She told me "Ma'am, we're trying to be nice to you. We don't know which one of you went off in the metal detector. Stay here so I can search you."
"But my son... where is my son?" I asked over and over again.
The female TSA agent called a second female TSA agent over as she began to search me. Apparently the second female TSA agent could hear me protesting and asking for my son.
"Ma'am you need to calm down or I'm going to have to involve the authorities," she told me.
Now I was pissed.
Horrified. Terrified. Enraged.
"You fucking get the authorities," I told the female TSA agent while the other continued to wand me and forced me to unbutton my jeans because the button beeped when she went over my abdomen with her wand.
"You get the goddamn authorities right the fuck now and tell them to GIVE ME MY SON," I said.
I began to black out. I knew I was having a full on panic attack. I feared passing out.
I was told to take my seat again, after being searched, but I was not allowed to collect my belongings.
My cell phone was within reach and I grabbed it without being seen by the TSA agents.
I called my husband. I do not remember what I told him on the phone in terms of Jackson and what took place.
I do recall asking him to calm me down because I could not breathe. As a father, he couldn't. I imagine any father would do the same. Paul had questions, tons of questions. Questions that I was not capable of answering because I literally was losing my breath and on the verge of blacking out.
I hung up and called my mother.
"Jackson's gone," I remember telling her. I do not remember what she said in return, but she instantly could tell I was having a panic attack. She began breathing with me on the phone in an attempt to calm me down.
She told me, "Nic, you're going to have to stop crying. You need to be strong for Jackson. He's going to be that much more scared if he sees mommy so upset. In through your nose... out through your mouth..." I think she may have counted, or had me count, I don't know.
Jackson was still gone.
My guess is that all of this took place within a period of 10 minutes or less.
It felt like hours... days even.
My son was gone.
Sobbing and seated, I watched both female TSA agents walk away from me and go back to monitoring luggage come through the conveyor belt.
Finally the male TSA agent who took Jackson brought him back.
Jackson was in my sight and immediately started yelling, "Mommy!"
I was hysterical.
Running to my son and grabbing him from the male TSA agent's arms, I sobbed and yelled obscenities at every single TSA agent who stood guard at the end of the conveyor belts.
One of them asked me if I wanted to speak to a supervisor.
Through tears I told him (or her, I don't remember) that I had a flight I was about to miss.
With Jackson in my arms, I gathered our belongings, through him in the stroller and ran to the elevator that took us down to the tram to take us to our concourse where our plane waited.
Sobbing as we traveled down the elevator, then during the tram ride, and up the next elevator to our concourse, I began running to our gate. I approached two female Delta agents at the desk of gate B-25.
"How much time do I have before this flight leaves?" I asked, knowing I needed to get to a bathroom due to my panic attack.
Looking at me concerned, I was told I had 5 minutes.
I ran to the bathroom. I placed Jackson on the diaper changing station with his juice and then I hit the floor. I could not see. I had no peripheral vision.
Channeling my mother, thinking of my phone call with her, I began to calm down.
I had an emergency Xanax in my jeans pocket. I always carry an emergency Xanax in my pocket. The result of severe anxiety.
I took the pill, but it did very little. I was so traumatized that it would've taken probably 4 Xanax to get my blood pressure back down to a normal level.
Splashing my face with cold water, then grabbing Jackson, I ran back to gate B-25.
Both female Delta agents looked at me and asked how they could help. I told them that my ticket had me at an aisle seat and if I could switch to a window (Jackson LOVES the window).
They told me that if I didn't mind sitting at the back of the plane, they could give me an entire row to myself.
I started crying again. I told them a shortened version of what had just taken place and how grateful I was for their kindness.
One of the female Delta agents walked me down the jetway, helping me with the stroller and getting it a gate-claim ticket.
I hugged her. I thanked her. I got on the plane.
I had my son and we were on the plane.
I called my mother again, telling her briefly that I was on and to please call Paul. I didn't remember that I had spoken to Paul earlier, and thought he did not know any of what had taken place.
Mom said she would call Paul and tell him everything. She reminded me that I had my son and we were on our way home.
Both Jackson and I slept during the flight. I held him so close that when he woke up, his head was drenched in sweat.
Our nightmare ended once the plane landed in Baltimore. Jackson and I exited, walked out of the concourse and Jackson demanded to get out of the stroller.
He ran to his daddy.
We were home.
I'm unsure how to end this post. I do not know what my story will lead to (if anything) but I needed to do more than file a complaint or write a letter. My hope is that this post of mine will be read by mothers and fathers, passed along to parents traveling with their children... most of all, my hope is that NO PARENT HAS THEIR CHILD TAKEN FROM THEM.
TSA TOOK MY SON IN ATLANTA HARTSFIELD-JACKSON AIRPORT.
THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO ANY PARENT. EVER.