Liberty Shield in Memphis

March 21, 2003
Posted at: 9:56 p.m. CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Operation Liberty Shield is the formal plan that's designed to protect American citizens, without disrupting our economy and way of life. It went into effect Monday, just after President Bush's address where he placed a 48-hour deadline on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

At Memphis International Airport, an airport used by many people in Region 8, increased security is a prime example of a place where this nationwide plan is now in effect.

Frank Otto is calling his wife before getting on the plane back home to California. He's not discouraged to fly, even though we're at war, and the terror alert has once again been raised to Code Orange.

"There's so many planes in so many places," Otto said. "And security is so tight. They'll probably catch it, so I'm not too worried."

Despite Otto's lack of concern, major airlines have rolled back routes in anticipation of a slowdown at the gates. Northwest Airlines, a major carrier in Memphis, released a statement Friday saying it was reducing its flight schedule by 12% nationwide due to hostilities. Even still, the local head of the Transportation Safety Association says passengers are not letting war disrupt their lives.

"Most passengers feel like it's safe to fly and they're continuing to do so," said Wiley Thompson.

Many items have been seized through increased security checks in the aftermath of September 11. Since Monday, officials have been instructed to be even more vigilant.

"This is a different shade of Code Orange," Thompson said. "(It's) much darker, much more serious than we had previously."

As a result of the increase in levels, the TSA will be operating under four levels of security with the first being at the airport entrance.

"We'll have more eyes and ears at the curbside," Thompson said. "So we're looking more carefully at the vehicles as they pull up to the terminal.

"All passengers must have their luggage screened through the CTX machine," Thompson said, speaking of what will greet passengers inside the terminal. "It's just another way of providing added security.

"Every bag that goes on a flight is checked. It must go through security and then a passenger must go through a passenger checkpoint," Thompson added.

The final level of security, according to Thompson, is one that was recently implemented this week: The presence of more eyes and ears in the airport. It is something the TSA believes even worried passengers should take comfort in.

"We are providing the very best security that could be ever had nationwide."