One day, a young man was seen walking around Montana’s Helena Regional Airport (HLN). No big deal, right? People walk through the airport all of the time.
But then, TSA officers saw the same man roaming around HLN the next day. It just didn’t seem right.
“Because of their situational awareness, they all noticed him walking around the airport, not seemingly going anywhere,” said Transportation Security Manager Mike Ellis. “They notified me, and I approached [the man]. I just started a conversation with him, asking him if he was traveling out today. He then told me his story.”
Ellis said the man was planning to fly out of HLN, and for some reason, the payment didn’t go through and the airline canceled his ticket.
“He came to HLN to visit a friend who paid for his trip,” Ellis said. “He went back and forth with the airlines and bus station and the person who was making the reservation for him for four days. He had nowhere to stay because his friend left town for work. He had very few clothes and no money.”
That’s when Team TSA Helena stepped in.
“All the officers felt compassion and wanted to help,” Ellis said. “We wanted to make sure the airport was aware, because we all knew they would help as well. We notified the [airport] restaurant, and we paid for his meals. The restaurant also helped with his meals. We thought about a change of clothes and some toiletries he might need, and I went to the store and purchased a change of clothes and the toiletries he needed.”
It was a total team effort.
“The airport let him sleep upstairs,” Ellis added. “Some other officers and I were able to give him the money he needed to get a bus ticket home.”
That was on day four.
When asked what compelled them to help this man, Officer Tiffany Kemner said, “He looked sad and looked like he needed help.”
“Because he needed help,” was also why Lead Officer Toni Gray chipped in.
So, how did the passenger react? Ellis said he was speechless and overwhelmed, but very appreciative.
“Under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do,” said Ellis. “I would help anyone who needed help and try and teach others to do the same.”