Remembering our past; securing our future

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
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On November 19, TSA will celebrate its 20th anniversary. To recognize this milestone, we asked TSA employees to share their memories from the past 20 years.

I was born in Brooklyn in 1963 and had lived in the New York Metro area until I graduated from college in 1986. I watched the twin towers being built as a young girl. I remember visiting them and traveling through the PATH station that ran under the towers on my way to an internship in the Empire State Building.

I returned to New York many years later with my young family in the summer of 2001 to visit my parents who stilled lived in the area. While we were there we visited the observation deck of the twin towers as well as the Statue of Liberty. It was my husband’s second trip to New York and the first for my children. My oldest son Christopher was 3; my twins William and Jessica were 18 months old.

The events of Sept. 11 affected me personally on so many levels. My parents were in New Jersey and my husband (a senior chief in the Navy reserves) deployed for an unknown period of time. I was left at home with three, young children and my own memories of the New York skyline that I had grown up with, had changed forever.”

Time moved on and it was not until 18 years later I had an opportunity to become a Transportation Security Officer in the Phoenix, Arizona. I was a little afraid of the responsibility at first. Not wanting miss something that could bring down a plane, but the training that I received and with the assistance of my coworkers I got to a point where I felt like I was making a difference. Passengers would go out of their way to say thank you for being here and doing your job; it made them feel safer.

I had an opportunity this past summer to mentor a new officer. I taught her to ask questions and always be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right. I felt proud when she became a certified officer and pinned on her shield. I felt if anything, I had come full circle and was passing the torch to the next generation that will secure our future.

Toni Harpel

Transportation Security Officer
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport - PHX