Quick-thinking LTSO Helps a Child in Danger

March 1, 2011
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By STSO Richard Swanson

Newly minted LTSO Patricia Abruzzio’s quick-thinking response to a child in danger demonstrated not only the longtime TSA officer’s clear-headed reflexes, but, to her, the realization that we are perceived not as individuals but as representatives of this agency, every minute we wear our uniform.

And while the rest of us marvel at her heroic (sorry, Pattie) action, she points to a fundamental truth: “We are perceived as a unit; what you do or say reflects on the whole,” she said.

It all started last month while Pattie walked through wall-to-wall people at the JetBlue baggage claim area, near the carousels, and spotted a large coffee spill. After cleaning it up with paper towels, she heard passengers say “Thanks, TSA,” as they rushed to get their bags.

Before the comments could register however she heard a young girl‘s bone-chilling cry of “Help me, Mommy!” Looking up, Pattie saw a petrified 4-year-old girl clinging to the outside of the up-escalator handrail as it carried her far above the floor. Somehow, she had bypassed the Plexiglas safety features designed to prevent such an occurrence.

Pattie’s yell of “Oh my god, the child,” alerted the mother, who was attending to her other child. Pattie ran over and slammed the emergency-stop button. That enabled the horrified mom to run up the steps, grab the child and pull her to safety.

And that’s when it began: the passengers spontaneously commenting “Nice work, TSA; Quick thinking, TSA; Never saw anyone move so fast, TSA.” Even the mother was sobbing, “Thank you TSA.”

But no one said “Thanks, Patricia” or “Thanks Miss” or even “Thanks Officer Abruzzio.”

As for Pattie, a four-year TSA officer, “That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t a person, I was no longer an individual: I was part of TSA. I was part of the whole unit. I’ve always known that what we do reflects on the whole, but it really hit me in that moment.”

And this reality doesn’t end at the sterile area or outside the terminal or even at the confines of Logan itself: “It’s really important that people realize that their attitude, or their behavior or the way they look and dress reflects on all of us, on-duty or off-duty, anywhere we’re in uniform.”

Repeatedly insisting that what she did “was nothing special, anyone would have done the same thing,” she said, “It may sound hokey but once you experience that feeling you’ll understand. Treat passengers the way you want to be treated; dress and act like a professional.”

In her official report to her supervisor, Pattie states, “It is so very important (to
realize this) and even though we are told this, and there are signs that say, ‘I am TSA,’
not everyone understands what a responsibility we have. I would like to know how to pass this ‘feeling’ on to the rest of the workforce.”

Message received, Pattie.