Updated: Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:48 PM PDT
Airline passengers whispered and craned their necks as they passed a group of about 70 uniformed security workers assembled in rank and file Friday at John Wayne Airport.
Flanked by men and women in suits, the workers stood at attention facing a podium where Rep. Dana Rohrabacher addressed them in honor of Public Service Recognition Week.
Airport security personnel are just as vital to our national security as soldiers fighting in Baghdad, Rohrabacher told the workers.
“We know there are people who would like to find a way to kill a large number of Americans. If [airport security] lets up, it makes us vulnerable to international forces that hate our country,” Rohrabacher said.
Immediately after Rohrabacher’s comments, the employees raised their right hands and swore to defend the United States, an oath recited by many federal, state and local public servants.
John Wayne was not the only airport to have such a ceremony. According to Transportation Security Administration spokesman Nico Melendez, 43,000 airport employees across the country observed Public Service Recognition Week.
“Doing this in public brings the attention of passengers to the public service of TSA workers,” Melendez said.
Passengers who tried to get through the closed security gate were sent to the other gate, but no long lines resulted from the roughly 10-minute presentation. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department stepped in to guard and monitor the airport while all of the usual security workers were congratulated and praised by Rohrabacher.
Rohrabacher told the audience that he spends 12 to 13 hours weekly flying to Washington and back and knows better than anyone how rude harried passengers can be when they’re forced to negotiate long lines at checkpoint.
“I have to take my shoes off, empty my pockets and take off my coat like everybody else,” Rohrabacher joked.