Razors on a Plane

Back in October of 2003, Guilford student Nathan Heatwole made a valid point: Two years after 9/11, security measures remained lax at the nation's largest airports, getting items such as box cutters, bleach, matches and clay past TSA on six different occasions at Raleigh-Durham International and Baltimore-Washington International airports.

I remember the headlines blaring, "North Carolina college student fools TSA, gets dangerous items on planes." Honestly, the very first thought that came to my mind was, "that kid has to be a Guilford student." And he was. It was meant to expose holes in the system, with Heatwole saying it was "an act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public.''

Feelings were mixed among the Guilford College community, with English department chair, Jeff Jeske saying:  

(*) "He's a very principled young man, and it's a shock to the system...I suspect it was to prove a point...I think there's ambivalence toward it, because on the one hand, Nat seems to epitomize one type of Guilford student, which is activist, antiwar pacifist. He pointed out how porous our defense against terrorism might be. But on the other hand, some might be concerned about his methods.''

(* Source: New York Times.)

Facing felony charges and a possible 10 year sentence, Heatwole ultimately received probation, a fine, 100 hours of community service, and some amount of lasting fame by exposing lapses in security protocol of the U.S. transportation network. It's not an endorsement of an illegal act but I give him props for risking significant jail time to not only act on his beliefs but also notify the authorities of the act. He may have embarrassed the TSA (and to some extent the College and his family) yet his act perhaps helped to bring about change and tighter security measures, which truly benefit all. This is the kind of social awareness and conviction that defines a Guilfordian


Nat is now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Southern California's Center for...(wait for it)...Homeland Security.

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