NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lenore Zimmerman, 85, was angry and embarrassed after what she claims was a strip search at Kennedy Airport.
Now another woman in her 80s said she was exposed one day before at the very same terminal. From her home in Sunrise, Fla., 88-year-old Ruth Sherman said she knows for a fact senior citizens are being violated at a screening checkpoint at JFK.
“I felt like I was invaded,” she told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
Sherman said a week-long Thanksgiving holiday with family in New York ended with an ordeal that started when the screeners wanted to check the bulge from Sherman’s colostomy bag.
“This is private for me. It’s bad enough that I have it,” she said. “I had to pull from my sweatpants and I had to pull my underwear, my underwear down.”
“You don’t do that anybody,” she added. “I felt like I was invaded.”
She said she initially complained to JetBlue and told her family, but is now going public after watching Zimmerman on television recounting a frighteningly similar tale of what she said was her strip search, at the same JetBlue terminal at JFK, one day later.
“They decide this 85-year-old lady needs to be strip searched,” Zimmerman said. “After they patted me down, they took me into a private room and they strip searched me. I said ‘why are you strip searching me? Do I like look a terrorist’?” she said.
Zimmerman said she was allowed to keep her top on.
Zimmerman, who lives most of the year in the Nassau County community of Long Beach and spends the winters in South Florida, said she will sue the Transportation Security Agency. She said she wanted a pat-down, that her defibrillator is why she cannot go through the machine, but that she never expected a strip search.
The TSA released a statement Sunday, apologizing to Zimmerman but disputing her story.
“TSA contacted the passenger to apologize that she feels she had an unpleasant screening experience; however, TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols and a strip search did not occur in this case,” the statement read.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens wondered how the TSA can be so sure. He said with no cameras in the private screening rooms, it is a screener’s word against the passenger’s.
“It’s outrageous,” he said. “What they need to find out is exactly what happened and if someone crossed the line they need to be penalized.”
“I missed my flight and I had to wait two and a half hours for the next one,” Zimmerman said.
When she finally made it to her winter home in Coconut Creek, Fla., she called her son Bruce in Long Beach. He told CBS 2 the family plans to sue the TSA.
“I do want them to have some sort of consequence. I think the two agents that escorted or initiated the strip search should be terminated,” Bruce Zimmerman said.
Leonore Zimmerman will return to New York in early April, but admitted that she is nervous after her experience. Both Sherman and Zimmerman said many times seniors are too cooperative and afraid to speak up when humiliated. Sherman wants that to change.
CBS 2 contacted a TSA spokesman about Ruth Sherman’s alleged strip search and were told only that the TSA will research this new case.
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