A simple act of kindness can mean so much.
When Sacramento International Airport checked baggage TSA Officer Thomas Regpala walked into work, he couldn’t help but notice an elderly female passenger sitting in the Terminal A ticket area alone with a luggage cart piled high with five large suitcases.
A few hours later, while on break, Regpala passed through the Terminal A ticket area again and saw the same woman. When he returned to the terminal baggage screening area, he told fellow TSA Officer Harold Navroth that he saw the woman sitting at the ticket counter earlier in the day, and she was still there.
Turning the clock ahead a couple more hours, Regpala went on his lunch break, walked through the ticketing area for a third time and noticed the elderly passenger again. It was at this point when he started to worry.
Concerned the woman may have been stranded without food, he immediately reported back to the Terminal A baggage room and informed Navroth and Lead Officer Youaphong Xiong.
“Would it be OK if we go out and check on the elderly passenger sitting in the ticket area?” Regpala asked Xiong. “She’s been sitting there for hours and might be stranded.”
The two officers went to the passenger’s location and introduced themselves.
Regpala asked, “Ma’am, are you OK? I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been sitting here for hours.”
“I’ve been here for a couple of days because my flight was cancelled,” the passenger replied. “The airline was supposed to provide me with a food voucher but never brought me one. I’ve been here for two days. I’m supposed to fly out tomorrow afternoon.”
Regpala then offered his lunch, snacks, and a drink so she could have something to eat while she waited. The passenger kindly accepted.
Navroth then looked around and noticed all the restaurants on the public side of Terminal A were closed because it was late at night. Navroth asked the passenger, “Would you like something to eat from the restaurant upstairs? I have a picture of the menu from the restaurant.”
The passenger agreed and said, “Because I’ve been cold, I would like a soup, a bagel, and a cup of hot tea with sugar to keep me warm.”
Navroth went upstairs to the only open restaurant on the sterile side and ordered the passenger’s food. About 15 minutes later, he brought her southwestern soup with chicken, a bagel with cream cheese, and a cup of hot tea with sugar.
Surprised at the amount of food Navroth brought her, the woman gave both officers the most gracious smile. She thanked them and said, “I cannot believe the act of kindness you two have both shown me. Thank you so much!”
Navroth asked, “Is there anything else we can do to help you?”
“No,” the passenger replied. “God bless you and thank you again!”
The following day when Regpala reported for work, the woman was gone.
“When I saw her, I couldn’t help but think, ‘What if that was my mother stranded like that. I would want someone to help her,’” said Regpala. “I just wanted to make sure she was OK. I didn’t have much to offer her, but I’m glad she was OK.”
“I’m so proud of these TSA officers who didn’t hesitate to extend compassion to a traveler in need who was previously unknown to them,” said Sacramento International Airport TSA Federal Security Director Sid Hanna. “While these officers weren’t looking for recognition or praise for their actions, they certainly deserve it. They represent the best of our workforce and serve as an example to all of us on the importance of choosing kindness first.”
By Erin Newsome, TSA Sacramento