Others drove by; Philadelphia TSA officer stopped, made a difference

Monday, March 14, 2022
Crash in Philadelphia photo

Her first thought was to document the traffic jam in case she was late to work, but when

Philadelphia International Airport TSA Officer Ebony Johnson inched closer to the multi-car accident, she knew she had to stop and help. 

“I’m a nurturer by nature,” said Johnson. “It’s not out of character for me to want to help people.”

Emergency vehicles were not on scene yet, and other than a tow truck operator, she was alone in responding.

“Other drivers took cellphone videos as they passed, but nobody stopped,” said Johnson.

Squeamish about medical emergencies, Johnson was quickly caught outside her comfort zone when she stepped out of her car and saw the bloodshed, but she was nudged by an adrenaline rush when she realized people were in need.

Crash scene photo
The crash scene from TSA Officer Ebony Johnson’s car window. (Photo by Ebony Johnson)

“It was chaotic,” said Johnson. “The accident must have just happened, and there were wounded people in and out of their cars.”

Officer Johnson photo
Philadelphia International Airport TSA Officer Ebony Johnson at work at the travel document checker position. (Photo by Laura Labbee-Valay)

After calling 911, Johnson began helping as many people as she could by supplying blankets and other supplies from her car first aid kit and by doing her best to keep the crash victims on the side of road and out of oncoming traffic.

When she came up on a smoldering car with a young victim pinned behind the wheel, Johnson stayed with her and again called 911. Under the dispatcher’s guidance, Johnson kept the victim engaged and monitored her vital signs until emergency responders arrived on the scene and freed her from the wreckage.

Then, an empathetic Johnson did what every parent would want someone to do if their child was in serious trouble. In one of the victim’s more lucid moments, Johnson got the phone number of the victim’s mother and called her, alerting her to the accident and the name and location of the hospital her daughter was being taken.

Once she saw authorities had control of the scene, an emotionally shaken Johnson made her way to work. When given the opportunity to take leave for the day, she opted to stay and work her entire shift.

“I took a while to compose myself,” said Johnson, exhausted from the two-hour sobering experience. “I cried for an hour and then went to work.”

“This is just another example of her extreme dedication to the mission,” said TSA Manager Laura Labbee-Valay. “The victims were lucky such a concerned citizen went above and beyond to ensure their safety." 

By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs