Lenore Zimmerman, 85, shows injury she says came during strip search by security at JFK Airport
'I really look like a terrorist,' 110-pound Long Island grandmother says
An 85-year-old Long Island grandmother says she plans to sue the TSA after a humiliating strip search on Tuesday by agents at JFK Airport.
Lenore Zimmerman, who lives in Long Beach, says she was on her way to a 1 p.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale when security whisked her to a private room and took off her clothes.
“I walk with a walker — I really look like a terrorist,” she said sarcastically. “I’m tiny. I weigh 110 pounds, 107 without clothes, and I was strip-searched.”
TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said a review of closed circuit TV footage from the airport shows “proper procedures were followed.”
But Zimmerman, whose hunched back puts her at 4-foot-11, said her ordeal began after her son, Bruce, drove her to the JetBlue terminal for the Florida flight. She lives in warm Coconut Creek during the winter.
She checked her bags, waited for a wheelchair and parted ways with her doting son — her only immediate relative.
When Zimmerman reached a security checkpoint, she asked if she could forgo the advanced image technology screening equipment, fearing it might interfere with her defibrillator.
She said she normally gets patted down. But this time, she says that two female agents escorted her to a private room and began to remove her clothes.
“I was outraged,” said Zimmerman, a retired receptionist.
As she tried to lift a lightweight walker off her lap, she says, the metal bars banged against her leg and blood trickled from a gash.
“My sock was soaked with blood,” she said. “I was bleeding like a pig.”
She says the TSA agents showed no sympathy, instead pulling down her pants and asking her to raise her arms.
“Why are you doing this?” she said she asked the agents, who did not respond.
The TSA claims the footage does not show any sign of the injury.
“Our screening procedures are conducted in a manner designed to treat all passengers with dignity, respect and courtesy,” Farbstein said.
Zimmerman says a medic arrived to treat her injury. The process took so long that she missed her 1 p.m. flight and had to catch a later one.
Her son said he was shocked when his mom called around 9 p.m. that night and described what happened.
“She was put through a hell of a day,” he said.
Zimmerman, who takes blood thinners, later had a tetanus shot for fear of infection from the walker wound.
Bruce Zimmerman, 53, said he can’t understand why the agents targeted his mom.
“She looks like a sweet, little old lady,” he said. “She’s not a disruptive person or uncooperative.”