Scare at T2C Paris

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Scare at T2C Paris

After a short stay in Paris, all my stays are too Shortt. I began the day with packing and getting ready for an afternoon flight to Belgrade on Etihad, the airline that is either loved or hated. I typically make sure I have plenty of time so if there are any issues I have time to deal with them.

I boarded the train for the airport at 7:15am and by 7:20am the train was stopped as there was someone on the tracks.  The train went back to the nearest station and we were instructed to disembark.  I had boarded the train at a transit hub where there were many options for transit.  Where we were off loaded there were no other transit options.  As my ticket was a one way fare to the airport I could not get into the other side of the tracks without buying another ticket. To add frustration the ticket machines only took coins or cards with PIN and Chip.  While I had plenty of cash and credit – it was not an acceptable form of payment. So, I hauled my body and bags to a nearby hotel (thank goodness for google maps and smarts phones) and the doorman called a cab.  The cab arrived in minutes, it was an hour later through rush hour traffic we arrived at Roissy Terminal T2C.

What greeted me as I exited the cab was a hoard of people coming out of the terminal and a police erected road block. I paid the cab driver and made my way into the crowd.  I asked some tourists what was going on and they had no idea.  So I polled a few of the flight crews – and one young lady enjoying a smoke outside while she waited for her aircraft, told me the whole story.  At least as best as anyone could know the whole story.  It seems there was an abandoned bag that no one had claimed. The police had ordered the terminal to be evacuated and the police had summoned the bomb squad.  I remarked that this was both “most unusual and very disorganized”. The people had been evacuated from the T2C building but were standing outside the terminal’s glass windows.  The young stewardess responded to my comments, after a long and obviously pleasurable drag on her cigarette, that no, this was not unusual and it happens once or twice a week.

I took the initiative and attempted to speak to one of the officers. He was not in the mood for questions or conversation.  He was having a very difficult time dealing with the crowd that was not eager to move.  He, and other officers, kept yelling get back, move away,  both in English and French.  No other instructions were proffered on where to go, or how far to get back.

Taking in the flight attendant’s comments and the earnest pleading of the officers – I stepped way back, out into the street and well up an exit ramp.  From this position I saw the problem and took some photos.  Unfortunately this was the only photo that was of acceptable quality for publication.

What I saw was a massive concentration of people, both inside the walkway that lead to the terminal (which would be inside the terminal on to left in this photo) and this hoard of people outside.  Normally, airports are crowded affairs; this density of targets is part of what makes them attractive targets for terrorists.  The efforts of the police, while correctly clearing the terminal, also inadvertently, as a result of people’s general reluctant behavior, increased the density of targets.  Not only were the curbs and ramps loaded with people, but also the walkway just inside was packed.  The density you see in this photo is about half the density on the internal walkway.

I can certainly see a traveler losing a bag.  We travelers are over taxed by the confusion, too many demands on the brain, too many new and unfamiliar directions and instructions to absorb.  I too once left a bag of paperwork after I left a screening – only to have my names paged to retrieve the bag – a red faced moment for sure.  It is the interactions to the reactions of the police and people that concern me.  If these bag losses are dry runs to see what happens,  it is clear what a terrorist can do to increase the damage from a device.  The subtle test of the system, if that is what it is, is grand information for the bad guys who will have no doubt deduced how to improve their injury and death yield from a device, if they so choose.  Just herding the people to the other side of the glass curtain walls insures the glass would be turned into fly shards of injury and death. As for the police and what they should do differently, I am not sure. Herding “sheep-people” is at best difficult, maddening and unrewarding.

The solution for the rest of us is when you are told to walk away by the police – walk far away.  Remove yourself from the concentration of people. Use the rule of thumb for danger.  Walk far enough away that as you look at the scene of danger – you thumb held out at arm’s length covers the entire scene.

This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Baron James Shortt, the Executive Director of the IBA.

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