Most teens who graduated from high school this year don’t remember what air travel was like before Sept. 11, 2001.
In those days, the federal Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration didn’t exist. Loved ones said their goodbyes at the gate instead of stopping at airport security.
Government-issued identification wasn’t required to fly. And passengers often were allowed to carry small knives on board.
Now strict security is an inevitable part of air travel. In 2000, the year before the 9/11 attacks, Sea-Tac Airport saw more than more than 28.4 million passengers.
Last year, more than 42 million passengers traveled through Sea-Tac, one of the fastest growing airports in the country.
Getting all of those passengers through a facility that wasn’t built with today’s airport security in mind is a challenge, said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper.
Frustration with TSA reached a flashpoint early this year when waits to get through airport security eclipsed an hour at Sea-Tac during busy times.
By May, the airport had hired 90 temporary workers to help TSA as a temporary way to get travelers through the bottleneck and on their way.
TSA did not respond to requests for comment on the problems.
In the next five years, the Port of Seattle will spend more than $2 billion to renovate and expand the north satellite terminal building, expand the customs area at the international arrivals facility and improve the baggage handling system.
Closer to home, convention centers, concert venues and stadiums beefed up security.
Before 9/11, venue managers were more concerned about “back of house” breaches, said Kim Bedier, Tacoma Public Assembly Facilities director.
At the time of the attacks, she worked in Toronto as the director of guest services and security for Air Canada Centre, the home ice of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team.
On Sept. 11, Bedier said, “We were just as panicked and shut down and shocked as anyone else. We were blissfully unaware before that point.”
After the attack, the security focus included the guests.
“Our first focus is the safety and security of our guests — and always had been, even before 9/11,” Bedier said. “Now, of course, we do it for everything.”
Security for local venues drew even tighter after last year’s terror attacks in Paris, including at the historic Bataclan Concert Hall. Concertgoers were there to hear an American metal band. Terrorists entered the venue and killed 90 people.
Two months later, the Tacoma Dome upped its security protocols for an AC/DC concert. The city of Tacoma spent $75,000 on 20 walk-through metal detectors. The facility banned handbags larger than a laptop bag.
Bedier said no single incident prompted the security landscape to change at the Dome. She keeps abreast of industry changes and said security is tightening everywhere.
“We want people to have a consistent experience no matter what venue they go to,” she said.
So far guests have been supportive, she said.
“We have been receiving thanks,” Bedier said. “They get it. They understand it’s a new world. Paris was such a big shocker for everyone. Nothing is sacred anymore.”
Now, Bedier said, convention center managers are having tough conversations about security.
“What’s going to happen in a decade?” she said. “Is it every public building?”