Go ahead, TSA. Make my day
“That TSA agent made my day.”
You don't hear that sentence very often. On any list of unlikely utterances, it's right up there with “Those Republicans and Democrats really work well together,” or “I wish this stomach flu could last forever.”
But after being part of an unexpected and emotional moment at Portland International Airport recently, I wouldn't be at all surprised if hundreds of travelers didn't at least think those words — and maybe even say them out loud — as they put their shoes and belts back on.
We were on our way to Washington, DC, with 13 military veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, a trip co-sponsored by the Vital Life Foundation and Wish of a Lifetime. This annual Journey of Heroes honors those who served in our nation's greatest conflicts, many of whom now live in long-term care settings, making it possible for them to see the memorials created in their honor.
I was riding along to document the trip with photos and video, and was stuffing my gear back into my bag in preparation for a friendly irradiation and pat-down when a colleague ran up and breathlessly commanded, “Hurry! Get over here with your camera. Now!” Apparently something special was about to happen, so being Canadian, I dutifully acquiesced.
Near the entrance to Concourse C, a large number of restless travelers were waiting in line to have their privacy violated, and I got there just in time to see a uniformed agent of the Transportation Security Administration raise her arms like Moses at the Red Sea and demand their full attention. Surprisingly, they obeyed, and what happened next was rather … well, actually, I'm not going to tell you. You have to watch the video.
Suffice it to say, it was a moving experience that brought several of our vets and their companions to tears. Seconds afterward, one of them said to me … nope, not going to tell you that either. Watch the video.
I talked to the agent afterwards, curious about why she bothered to step outside her job description and do what she did (watch the video to find out what that was), especially on such a hectic morning. “It's not required,” she responded. “I come from a long line of veterans, and it's just something I like to do.”
She started the practice with an honor flight about three years ago, unsure how it would be received by the public.
“I just felt many of these heroes never got a parade, a round of applause or even a thank you,” she said. “A lot of them feel forgotten, and this recognition can be the difference they've been waiting for.”
Every time she makes the speech, she still gets emotional. But until she saw this video — the one you need to watch — she'd never experienced fully the impact it made.
“As many years as I've been doing this, I've never seen it from their perspective,” she said. “To see their reaction and how much they appreciated it was very heartwarming. I teared up a little.”
You might too. If you watch the video.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.