BALTIMORE (WJZ) —20 years ago, the Transportation Security Administration first started screening airline passengers in the months after 9/11 at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The agency celebrated the anniversary at the airport Friday. 

BWI was the first airport in the nation to be federalized, launched under TSA security oversight, just months after the terrorist attacks.

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“20 years ago is when TSA came here and started the rollout of what that would look like across the nation,” said Jil Thrash, Assistant Federal Security Director for Inspections at BWI.   

On April 30, 2002 the newly formed agency began taking over security at the airport.  

The first TSA Security checkpoint in the nation at BWI airport in 2002

“It was really the partnership of the Baltimore Washington Airport and the authority here, that really raised their hand to say, ‘Look we went to help and be a part of this foundation of a new TSA,’” said Chris Murgia, Federal Security Director at BWI.   

TSA employees joined local and federal leaders at the airport to commemorate that first day when the airport would become a model for other airports around the country for security.    

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“9/11 happened and I wanted to come I had never worked for the federal government I was always state government and but I wanted to come make a difference,” said Elaine Burnett-Rose, a supervisory transportation security inspector for the Baltimore-Washington area.   

Some who were there when the TSA was in its infancy said those early days were a little chaotic.   

“We had no direction for our standard operating procedure, so everything was on the fly,” Murgia said.   

“We didn’t even have assignments we just showed up and we had to figure it out,” Burnett-Rose said.    

Today the TSA operates at 430 airports with 60,000 employees nationwide. Many with the agency said on Friday that the nation is safer now because of the TSA, and the agency has learned a lot over the last 20 years.   

“We have definitely learned a lot. I think we’re moving a lot closer to being proactive than reactive,” said Thrash. 

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Stetson Miller