Terrorist plot causes delay in students’ travel plans, return home

Several groups of TCU students participating in summer study abroad programs in the United Kingdom had homebound flights affected by a foiled bomb plot that targeted planes flying to the United States.According to The New York Times, more than 20 suspects were arrested Aug. 10 on suspicion of plotting to bring liquid explosives disguised as drink bottles on as many as 10 passenger planes.

A group of TCU theater students in Edinburgh, Scotland were scheduled to fly back Aug. 16, but returned a day early because of the threats.

“The entire flight home I was nervous,” said Desmond Ellington, a sophomore theater and radio-TV-film major.

Ellington said he realized that it could have been their flight attacked.

“There is a very real possibility that I might not be here today if they hadn’t caught them,” he said.

TCU theater professor Jennifer Engler, who was traveling with a theater class, said she allowed eight students on the trip to use her phone to reassure their parents of their safety.

Bob Franklin, a junior secondary education major, was studying with an honors group in the United Kingdom when the arrests were made.

When flying out of London Gatwick Airport, Franklin said, he had to put his wallet and passport and any outer clothing in a plastic bag to demonstrate that he was not carrying anything harmful.

Franklin’s flight was delayed for 45 minutes to allow the airport to verify all of the passengers’ names with the United States.

The security level in UK airports was downgraded late Sunday by Director General Eliza Manningham-Buller of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre .

Last week’s “critical” warning level restricted hand baggage on planes, specifically liquid items. According to BBC News, the current “severe” warning level allows people to have carry-on items; however, other items such as liquids will be gradually phased back in.

BBC News also reported that the British Home Secretary John Reid said, “the change in the threat level does not mean the threat has gone away.”

Ellington said arriving at the airport and seeing numerous security officers with large rifles in plain sight made the threat real to him.

Susan Layne, TCU London Centre coordinator, said she was reassured that the attack was averted and was confident that the students were safe.

“We had groups in Dublin, Edinburgh and Oxford, but none were scheduled to travel on that day,” Layne said. “In the end, the inconvenience of airport delays seemed relatively insignificant.