TSA Officer Roberto Gonzalez started his shift at Miami International Airport (MIA) not knowing what the day would bring. As one of the nation’s busiest airports, MIA is home to more than 1,600 Officers. Through the bustle, officers keep security screening lines moving smoothly while watching for incidents or safety hazards.
That day, travelers quickly filtered through the line, including an elderly couple, who gathered their belongings and sat at a bench near the checkpoint.
A moment later, the man began sweating profusely. As he bent over to sit, he fell back on the bench and started convulsing. His wife immediately started to scream for help.
Gonzalez rushed to the passengers and asked if the man had any pre-existing medical conditions. His wife was too distraught to answer Gonzalez’s questions. All she could say was her husband’s name.
The man’s breathing strained, and his face began to turn purple. Gonzalez didn’t waste any time and started CPR.
“I remained calm and assessed the situation. I immediately knew I had to perform CPR if he had any chances of surviving what was happening,” said Gonzalez.
As Gonzalez administered CPR, Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Daniel Tabares took control of the scene. He called for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and worked with other officers to close off the area from other passengers.
Gonzalez performed CPR for ten minutes until Miami-Dade Police (MDP) Officer Brandon Hoo rushed over with a defibrillator. Together, they worked to get a pulse.
After the first shock of the defibrillator, Gonzalez continued CPR for two more minutes until the man began to breathe again. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue transported the passenger and his wife to a local hospital, where he recovered from the harrowing episode.
Later that week, Gonzalez followed up with the couple, asking how the husband was doing and about his recovery. They both expressed their sincere gratitude for TSA and MDP’s quick actions.
The couple told Gonzalez that once they arrived at the hospital, the husband underwent an emergency medical procedure, which he may not have survived without the help from TSA and MDP.
“He seemed surprised by my call,” Gonzalez said, “But he was very grateful for my actions, since it allowed him the chance to get to the hospital and receive a lifesaving operation.”
Federal Security Director (FSD) Jenel Chang paid a visit to MIA’s checkpoint to personally recognize and applaud Gonzalez for his heroic actions. She presented him the local TSA-MIA coin and shared a few words with him and his colleagues.
Chang also sent out a workforce message stating, “I would like to commend Mr. Gonzalez on his command presence, kindness, respectfulness and leadership in this situation. Had he not responded when he did, this passenger may not be alive today. Thank you, Mr. Gonzalez, for your service. It is an honor to serve with you.”
“I was very grateful for the FSD and all the other high ranking officials who took the time to recognize me. I felt very humbled and honored by their words of gratitude. But, I also could not have done it alone. The Miami-Dade Police officers deserve recognition as well for their response in assisting me,” Gonzalez said.
By Laritza Puentes, Executive Assistant, Miami International Airport and Kimberlyn Pepe, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs