August 11 was just another day for New York’s LaGuardia Airport TSA Officer Darrell Taylor until he encountered a passenger who needed support more than he could imagine.
The passenger approached Taylor and asked him, “Where is the most peaceful place outside of the airport where I can take my own life?”
“He looked very distressed,” said Taylor. “He probably has someone in his life who cares and loves him.”
After the apprehensive encounter, the passenger started walking toward the restroom. Meanwhile, Taylor kept an eye on the passenger and followed him until the man approached another TSA officer.
“His body language, mannerism coupled with his voided facial expression, and because he asked, was a clear indication to me that he was reaching out and seeking attention as a desperate cry for help and that he was not some person just joking around,” Taylor assessed.
Not satisfied with Taylor’s response to his question, the passenger asked the second officer, “Where is the quietest place in the airport?” The second officer, unaware of the passenger’s suicidal thoughts, told him he wasn’t aware of any quiet place at LaGuardia and directed the passenger toward the exit.
Showing concern for the passenger, Taylor then asked Supervisory TSA Officer Tahjib Zaman to call Port Authority police, alerting them of the passenger and his suicidal statement. Taylor told Zaman the passenger asked about taking his own life.
“Once Officer Taylor told me about the comment the passenger made to him, I immediately knew to reach out to law enforcement,” said Zaman. “This is not a common occurrence that I have to deal with on a daily basis. I also never had a passenger make such a comment like that.”
While Zaman tried to reach a TSA manager, the passenger engaged with Taylor and Expert TSA Officer Alexis Maddox. Taylor and Maddox kept the passenger close by until police arrived.
“He did not want to talk to me about what was going on, and I did not press him for the reason why he wanted to take his own life,” Taylor recalled.
Emergency Medical Services informed TSA the passenger was taken to a mental health facility.
“Although I have not faced a real-life scenario like this in the past, TSA has prepared me for a scenario like this through training,” said Zaman. “I knew the passenger needed help. My instinct kicked in. We are all grateful that we were able to help the passenger.”