Ruth Sherman, an 88-year-old frequent flier with JetBlue, has flown from New York to Florida many times, but never has she been taken aside and asked to pull her pants down and show her colostomy bag, as she asserts occurred at Kennedy Airport recently.
It makes Sherman the second elderly woman in recent days to claim that TSA agents forced her to expose herself during a pre-flight security screening. Lenore Zimmerman, a Long Beach, N.Y., resident, says she was required by TSA security screeners to take off her pants as part of a search on Nov. 29. That search likewise took place at the JetBlue terminal at Kennedy.
Sherman, who was returning home Nov. 28 after celebrating Thanksgiving with family in New York, said her initial X-ray screening apparently showed a bulge from her colostomy bag on the side of her body. Screeners then pulled her aside and gave her a pat-down with their hands, including touching her on her legs and her torso near her breasts and around her arms, she said.
That triggered the screeners to order yet another level of search.
“It was awful,” Sherman told msnbc.com from her home in Sunrise, Fla. “They asked me to come into another room. I said ‘Don’t touch me — you have dirty hands.’ I had on plain sweatpants and a top. They made me pull my sweatpants down with my underwear. They invaded my privacy.
“I was so taken aback. I’m on medication, and I didn’t want to get high blood pressure. It was a horrible situation.”
"TSA is currently reviewing recent allegations of passengers who flew out of JFK, " spokesperson Greg Soule said in a statement. "Our preliminary review of each of these claims indicates all screening procedures were followed."
One thing is known, Soule told msnbc.com earlier Monday: “Is removal of underwear proper for (someone with) a colostomy bag? The answer is no.”
JetBlue had little to say. “We’re cooperating with the TSA and ask that you refer to them for additional information,” said Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the airline.
Sherman says it just befuddles her that anyone could mistake her for a terrorist threat. “I said to (the TSA agent), ‘Why are you doing this? I don’t have a bomb here. I’m not blowing myself up.’ ”
More from Overhead Bin:
- Too old to travel alone? Companies provide escorts
- Woman, 85: I was strip searched at JFK
- Head of FAA placed on leave after DWI charge
Elaine Porterfield is an msnbc.com contributor.