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Jesus and Wife Detained at Airport During Christmastime (Part Deux)

No way could I let 2013 slip-slide away without giving you updates on the latest developments from the airport. Get ready to be truly amazed at how fast Minnesota Nice can evaporate at the terminal during the holidays. Apparently, it’s not enough to keep escalating ticket prices and keep charging more and more exorbitant fees just so you can fly on a damned airplane. Oh, no. Now they have to take away your individual rights and freedoms, too -- all in the name of “keeping America safe.” If only Franz Kafka could see us now...

Remember the big airport shutdown that took place on December 20th when crazy lady Martha Morocho tried to board her flight with a propane tank and then left a “suspicious looking” package at Terminal 2? Surprise! There was no propane tank. There wasn’t even any propane.

In fact, there NEVER was a propane tank, there NEVER was any propane!

Really.

But wait. You mean when the airport spokespersons kept talking about the propane and the propane tank, they were talking about things that didn’t exist? You mean the broadcast journalists who reported this story about the dangerous propane tank were only parroting what the airport officials wanted them to say? You mean the print journalists who reported their story about the dangerous propane tank were merely using written PR that airport officials had given them?

Well, yeah. No propane, no propane tank. And yet, Ms. Morocho got arrested for leaving the nonexistent propane and propane tank at the aiport after she was told she couldn’t get on the plane with her package of nonexistent propane and propane tank.

Really?

Really. I’m not making this up. I couldn’t make it up because I never could have believed that airport officials would spin such blatant lies into believable press releases. Or that professional journalists would be so gullible that they’d go along with anything and everything officials told them.

But here we are, nearly two weeks later, scratching our heads and trying to separate the truth from the lies and running into more difficulties. It’s always hard to figure out what happens when you put your faith in authority figures who lie to you.

Of course when airport spokespersons kept talking about (and writing about) that suspicious propane tank, I thought there really WAS a propane tank. So did everyone else, especially the journalists who should have known better. Unfortunately, the immediate credibility and reliability they gave to AIRPORT, INC. backfired. The Strib went from headlines that announced “No, propane tank is not a carry-on” to “Discarded box didn’t contain propane tank, airport admits.”

Now that’s a contradiction that’s newsworthy in itself. First, there’s a dangerous propane tank at the airport that results in shutdowns and travel delays. (OMG! Call the bomb squad! Take cover!) Then there’s no propane tank at all. (OK, never mind.) Then there’s a stunning admission from airport officials that there NEVER had been any propane or any propane tank.

But then, almost immediately AFTER this stunning admission, airport spokespeople continued with their unbelievable finger-pointing. They still blame that poor traveler they targeted and arrested! They still say it’s Martha Morocho’s fault!

The Strib’s follow-up that was published on Thursday, December 26th shows how far the spokesman du jour would go to rekindle our old fears and anxieties about 9-11. Although he admitted there was no propane tank, he refused to acknowledge AIRPORT, INC.’s responsiblity in this major security snafu. Talk about feeble attempts at damage control!

“All we knew that morning was that we had a...box with a hole cut into the top and a metal pipe and hose sticking out,” he said. “From our limited view of the part of the pipe sticking out of the box, it resembled piping used with propane, which in fact is exactly what it was...”

No, not exactly. It was a grill. That’s all it was.

But I already discussed that last week in my blog. I wrote that it was probably a gift, an unwrapped Christmas present, and that it was something that could “go with” a new grill. Turns out the package didn’t contain parts for a grill, it actually contained a little grill. I was on the right track but then got confused because I, too, believed there was actually a propane tank involved. There wasn’t.

And yet, without any professional training, I was able to deduce that the package posed no immediate danger and wasn’t a bomb. That’s more than the trained and paid professionals at the airport could figure out.

Yeah, I know it’s a tough job, I know it can be hard work. But I also know how good bureaucrats are at covering up when they screw up. And that’s what they’re trying to pull on poor Martha Morocho now. She’s their scapegoat because too many employees at the airport can’t do their jobs competently and efficiently.

Even the spokesman in the story from The Strib made sure he watered down reality into this CYA excuse:

“There was no way to know whether it was attached to a propane tank until we evacuated the area and had the bomb squad investigate.”

Oh, yes there was. There was a way. Can you spell C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N, spokespeople? Communication means you talk AND listen to each other as you go about doing your jobs at the airport.

If this package had been such a threat to public safety, the employees at the airline ticket counter who first saw it and refused to check it in should have immediately notified airport  security. They didn’t. They didn’t because they realized what it was and knew it wasn’t a bomb.

But they still could have contacted airport security. That way, security could have confiscated it, examined it, then disposed of it. Or else, security could have held it “in custody” until Ms. Morocho’s husband came to pick it up. But security wasn’t contacted at that point. Their intervention came later on, after the situation had needlessly escalated into panic mode.

Contrary to the airport’s spin, Ms. Morocho didn’t abandon this suspicious package near a store or waste receptacle. No, that didn’t happen. Ms. Morocho asked a store employee if she would hold the package for her until her husband could come to the airport and get it. The store employee agreed. Then after Ms. Morocho left to board her plane, the employee changed her mind -- and then called security. After that, everything hit the fan because no one wanted to do the talking and listening that good communication always entails.

The real problem here had to do with basic awareness. No one realized that the package Ms. Morocho had tried to check in was the same package given to the store employee. No one figured that out until AFTER the bomb squad had been called and the shutdown had commenced. And then, AIRPORT, INC. began Operation Scapegoat with Ms. Morocho.

But now airport officials and their minions have a bigger problem: the televised interview with the store employee.

If ever you screw up and need to hide or backpedal, make sure there’s no evidence on tape. Before you start your self-serving spin in earnest, be sure there’s no visual record that contradicts your B.S. People will always believe the visual -- and not your spin -- because one picture can speak a thousand words -- even if it’s just a visual sound bite of a young airport worker talking to reporter Bill Hudson.

Somebody working in the airport’s PR department or WCCO’s editing room must have known about the validity that a televised interview could bring. Otherwise the tape wouldn’t have been altered in the way it was. Or should I say tampered with?

On Friday, December 20th, WCCO-TV aired an interview with the store employee who had talked with Ms. Morocho at the airport. Part of this interview aired during the early evening newscast, while another part aired at the 10 PM newscast. Although both parts showed the same interview with the same employee and the same reporter, there were marked differences in regard to this employee’s version of events.

The interview had been edited.

During the interview that aired in the early evening, this employee told Bill Hudson that this woman (Ms. Morocho) had approached her and asked if she’d hold a package for her until her husband could come and pick it up. The employee admitted that she did agree to hold this package. Later on, however, AFTER the woman had left (to board her flight), the employee became suspicious and called security.

When the interview aired on the 10 o’clock news, however, her story had changed. This time the employee said she’d refused to hold the package and had contacted security. The interview had been edited to make it seem that Ms. Morocho had abandoned the package, called to the employee to keep an eye on it, then took off. How was this done? By simply deleting parts of the interview. Conspicuously absent from the story was how Ms. Morocho had asked the employee to hold the package and how the employee had agreed. So why was it edited in that way?

Did the employee have second thoughts about her involvement in this situation?

Did the airport somehow indicate to the station that they wanted their version of events to prevail?

Or, did WCCO-TV arbitrarily decide to depict Ms. Morocho as the bad guy?

That’s hard to say when you’re dealing with spin. Be assured, though, that there will be no real ending to this news story anytime soon. Watch for the ACLU or other powerful attorneys to get involved with this case in 2014. Stay tuned for even more faux reporting from local media about this incident. And don’t expect me to shut up about the kind of abuse airport personnel inflicted on traveler Martha Morocho and her husband Jesus de la Torres.

Don’t get me started on how airport authorities stormed the plane and dragged Ms. Morocho off in handcuffs while her crying children looked on, then were flown off to New York without their mother. Oh, how understanding and Minnesota Nice-like the airport officials would have been if Martha and Jesus had been Lena and Ole. I can only dream of a world  where ethnic minorities aren’t always the villians and blue-eyed blondes aren’t always the heroes and professionals really know how to do their jobs...


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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