The wait at the Continental Airlines ticket counter stretched for more than an hour, but Michael O'Malley had no choice.
Checking his bags curbside was no longer an option in the new protocol of post-terrorist-attack air travel. Electronic tickets were no longer accepted, identification cards were checked and checked again, bags were searched, and every passenger in Terminal 2 was subjected to the metal-detecting security wand.
Now, everyone is suspect.
"I have no problem with it," O'Malley said as he made his way through O'Hare International Airport on Friday, hoping to board a plane to Houston. "I like my time on this planet, so it's no problem."
Tuesday's terrorist attacks delivered a lasting blow not just to the American psyche, but to the national passion for convenience and efficiency. Now more than ever, Americans will be forced to trade time for safety, to sacrifice bits of their freedom for a sense of security.
Aviation officials expect long lines at U.S. airports, as passengers queue up to have their bags examined and their tickets confirmed. In skyscrapers, workers and apartment dwellers face new layers of security, from more uniformed guards to swipe cards to open doors. At courthouses and government buildings, metal detectors have been turned to increasingly sensitive settings.
It is, many Chicagoans say, a necessary evil. But some warn there is also a breaking point, a yet-unknown threshold at which the added layers of security seem to reach beyond necessary and become intrusive.
Some worry about profiling --that people will be subject to security stops or searches simply because of their race or religion. Others worry that Americans will revolt against new measures that will consume time and money.
"It's one thing to talk about security at public buildings and airports and things like that," said Neal Draznin, an attorney for the state of Illinois. "It's another to use events like Tuesday to encroach on people's civil liberties.
"There are going to have to be more safety checks because the world's a dangerous place," he said. "The question is how do you limit those security measures to ensure we have the freedoms we deserve?"
It is a question that has come up before.
Rules usually become routine
When a series of hijackings in the 1970s led to new security measures at U.S. airports, many people complained, saying parking restrictions and security checks were too strict. But the rules soon became routine and, some have argued, lax.
The 1981 kidnapping of 6-year-old Adam Walsh from a Hollywood, Fla., Sears store led millions of parents to have their children fingerprinted. In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died area after someone put cyanide in Tylenol bottles. That prompted the Food and Drug Administration to require tamper-resistant packaging on pharmaceuticals. Consumers fumbled with the new plastic seals, but adjusted.
In 1984, Chicago's Daley Center installed metal detectors after Hutchie Moore brought a gun into Divorce Court and shot his wife's attorney and presiding judge Henry Gentile. Now the detectors seem as much a courthouse fixture as the Picasso sculpture outside.
The impact of last week's attacks was immediate and far-reaching. The Federal Aviation Administration shut down air travel across the United States for the first time in history, stranding passengers for days and clogging shipments of food and products before re-opening the skies on a limited basis Thursday. Now, air travel--often unpleasant under the best of circumstances--threatens to become downright ugly.
Armed federal marshals will be added to some flights, a procedure that was used temporarily in the 1970s but mostly scrapped later. Already there have been more bag searches, pat-downs and X-rays at security checkpoints, closer scrutiny at ticket counters and limitations on carry-on luggage.
At O'Hare on Friday, police officers with bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the terminals, security guards walked among the passengers, and travelers faced new questions about whether they were carrying knives or sharp objects. Nobody was allowed into the gate area without a ticket, and passengers were required to show both their boarding pass and their ID before passing through the metal detectors. In at least one terminal, every carry-on bag was swabbed with a piece of cloth designed to detect explosive residue.
`Security has a price'