The boy is developmentally delayed, one of the effects of being born 16 weeks prematurely. His ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone. In March he was just starting to walk.
Mid-morning on March 19, his parents wheeled his stroller to the TSA security point, a couple of hours before their Southwest Airlines flight was to depart.
The boy's father broke down the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt as Leona Thomas walked Ryan through the metal detector.
The alarm went off.
The screener told them to take off the boy's braces.
The Thomases were dumbfounded. "I told them he can't walk without them on his own," Bob Thomas said.
"He said, 'He'll need to take them off.' "
Ryan's mother offered to walk him through the detector after they removed the braces, which are custom-made of metal and hardened plastic.
No, the screener replied. The boy had to walk on his own.
That's the TSA for you: Protecting us from the 4 year-old crippled terrorist children of active police officers everywhere.
By then, Bob Thomas was furious. He demanded to see a supervisor. The supervisor asked what was wrong.
"I told him, 'This is overkill. He's 4 years old. I don't think he's a terrorist.' "
The supervisor replied, "You know why we're doing this," Thomas said.
Feel safe yet?