Early on a Saturday at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), a young lady and her father went through TSA screening. Each placed their carry-on and personal items in the inspection tubs, walked through to the other side, picked up their cleared belongings and proceeded to the bench to put their shoes on and gather themselves.
When the young lady searched her bin, she didn’t see her shoes. She went back to the belt to search for her shoes as they were not in the tub with the rest of her items. No shoes.
“I was summoned by her and her father who explained to me that she had placed her shoes in the tub, and after the tub came out of the X-ray, the shoes were nowhere to be found,” said ECP Supervisory TSA Officer Mitchell Flanagan.
His first thought was someone in her group played a prank. But when Flanagan asked, she said it was just her and her father traveling.
When Flanagan checked the X-ray belt to see if someone else inadvertently picked up the shoes or if they were in another tub or stack of tubs, he didn’t find the shoes.
Because the passenger couldn’t board her flight without shoes, Flanagan went to the nearest gift shop to buy a pair of flip flops for her, only to find they didn’t sell any footwear. Not deterred, he went to the next best place where he might find shoes – the TSA uniform room.
As he was headed to the uniform room to see if he could find a pair of shoes, Flanagan saw [TSA Officer] Lana Bowling and asked her, “Do you happen to have a pair of shoes in your locker?,” and explained the situation to her.
Surprisingly, she had a pair and gave her shoes to the passenger.
“I was surprised that Mitch asked me what size shoe I was,” said Bowling. “When I responded that I was a particular size, I was a bit more perplexed when he asked if I had any extra shoes in my locker.”
“In the 19 years that I've been at TSA, I have never had something like this happen,” reflected Flanagan.
On her return flight, the passenger returned Bowling’s shoes with a note.
“To receive a personal handwritten note, well you know, nowadays everything is a text, an email, a phone call,” recalled Bowling. “So, to receive that note thanking us for our kindness warmed my heart more than probably my shoes warmed her feet. When the shoes were returned later, I really felt they were part of her, yet the note, again, meant more than the shoes.”
“Mitch and Lana are two of the most giving individuals I’ve come across in my career at TSA,” said ECP TSA Manager Paul Farnan. “I’d like to think they would give you ‘the shirt off their back’, yet I learned they would give you ‘the shoes off their feet’. Not only are they giving Officers, [Officers] Flanagan and Bowling embody the true spirit of TSA’s core values of integrity, respect and commitment to the organization and our traveling public.”