Omer Petti is a 95-year-old USAF veteran with artificial knees and a heart condition. Madge Woodward, his partner, has an artificial hip. They recently flew home to Detroit from San Diego, and were humiliated and robbed at the San Diego airport TSA checkpoint. The metal in their bodies set off the TSA magnetometer, and Petti was instructed to put his $300 in cash in a bin. Then he was further detained when a swab detected the nitroglycerin residue from his heart pills. He and Woodward were subjected to humiliating patdowns, and then discovered that their $300 had gone missing. When Petti asked where his money had gone, the TSA agent required he and Woodward to remove their shoes again and empty out their pockets, and asked if they were "refusing his request" when they objected. The TSA manager checked the security footage, but reported that it was "too blurry" to see what had happened to the money. The two elderly people were loaded into their wheelchairs and taken to their plane at full tilt, barely making it. They never got their money back.
"Can you imagine an 85-year-old lady and 95-year-old retired Air Force Major in wheelchairs being treated like terrorists?" Petti asked recently sitting in the kitchen of the Bloomfield Township home he shares with Woodward.
On March 29 Petti and Woodward arrived at the San Diego International airport at 10 a.m. for a flight scheduled to leave at 11:36 a.m. As usual, Petti and Woodward removed their shoes, jackets and sweaters and put these along with their other belongings — belt buckles, carry on bags, purse and jewelry, including Petti's money clip — into a total of four rubber bins.
Petti says a security officer asked him to remove Kleenex and $300 in folded bills that he had in his pocket and send it through the detector. "I hesitated and said: 'You really want me to put my bills in there?' " Petti said. The officer said yes, so Petti put the cash into a fifth bin. Then he and Woodward proceeded through the metal detector.