A year ago TSA Officer Albert Torres started his TSA career at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), bringing his spirited humor to the frontlines.
In his free time, Torres loves volunteering within his community. One of his biggest passions lies in his work with search and rescue missions for children and adults.
He began volunteering with the search and rescue organization in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, helping reunite families who were separated during the super storm.
For more than 10 years, Torres has remained an active participant, keeping in contact with his network through radio chatter and group texts. Through this network he recently heard about a missing child in his area. On that day, Torres was working an extra shift at LGA when messages alerted the search and rescue group to a special missing person’s case.
“It was a missing child,” Torres said. “The family was going through some hardships.”
The search and rescue organization posted information about the case on their message board, reaching volunteers throughout the country to help search for the child.
“Not even half an hour after sending the information to the network, we received a message from a volunteer saying they thought the child was in Wisconsin,” Torres said. “We told the member to contact the local police agency. Sure enough, we got confirmation from authorities of a possible match to the missing child from New York.”
Working with authorities, the search and rescue group confirmed the child in Wisconsin was the same missing child from New York, who was now labeled a runaway. The volunteers coordinated with local police and the child was reported safe.
The family faced financial hardship, making it difficult to bring the minor home, but Torres and other members of the team decided they had to reunite the family as soon as possible.
“I was calling every single airline I could possibly think of trying to find an available flight for the mother,” Torres said. “The only flight we found was too expensive for the family to afford. We weighed the option of a bus ride, but that would take two or three days.
“I couldn’t have this mother cry another night without her child. I told the volunteer agency that we had to put her on the plane, even if the ticket money came out of my own pocket. Her story really struck me. I knew I needed to help this mother reunite with her child. I handed over my debit card, and we planned to put her on the next flight out of LGA.”
The last hurdle was getting the mother to the airport on time. She was across the city when she got word of the one and only flight departing in the next hour.
The search and rescue team helped her pack a small bag while Torres made a few more phone calls to his network, reaching out to friends at a police department. He organized an escort car for the mother to get to the airport quickly.
Once there, she met with Torres, who escorted her to the checkpoint. Once cleared, she gave a thumbs up and made it to her gate with five minutes to spare.
Later that evening, Torres received a call that the mother and child were reunited. Although exhausted from the past few days, both were safe.
When asked about the cost of tickets, Torres was quick to brush off the expense.
“When it comes to these types of cases, I never look at how much it costs,” Torres said. “I look at the human life involved. I look at the child and think about what could have caused her to want to run. And I think about the trauma she could have gone through. She could have gotten hurt or something worse. I wasn't thinking about nickels or dimes, pennies or dollars. I was just thinking about the mom has to get back to her child. We’re going do what we have to do, and we'll do everything we possibly can to help a family out.”
By: Kimberlyn Pepe, TSA’s Strategic Communications & Public Affairs