This morning, at 9:20am(PST)/12:20pm(EST), TSA employees, airport workers, and travelers across the nation paused to mark the moment an attack took the life of TSA Officer Gerardo Ismael Hernandez last week at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Sadly, Officer Hernandez - a husband, a father, a son, a colleague and a friend - became the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty. The agency and all across the Department of Homeland Security, have felt this impact.
In many ways, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are the public face of our nation’s security. Every day, TSOs interact with nearly two million travelers across the United States with a single goal in mind - ensuring they safely reach their destinations.
He had joined TSA in June of 2010. His colleagues, as well as passengers, knew him as a man whose warm smile and humorous nature made them feel at ease. He took pride in his duty to the TSA mission and to the American public.
United States Honor Flag Ceremony (LAX) Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
This week at LAX, an American Airlines plane landed on the runway, marking the arrival of a special United States flag that was presented to his family and used at his funeral. This flag, the United States Honor Flag, is a tribute reserved for those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their family, community and country. Hernandez was such a person.
Two other TSA officers, Tony Grigsby and James Speer involved in this senseless attack, are thankfully recovering from their injuries. Even in the chaos of the attack, these two TSOs were seen helping others and continuing to put the safety of others ahead of their own.
Officer Grigsby is a Master Behavior Detection Officer (MBDO), who has been with TSA since 2004. He said that during the incident, his main concern was making sure the terrified people running towards him were okay. He was shot in the ankle while helping an elderly man move to a safe area.
James Speer joined the TSA in 2008 and is a Master Security Training Instructor (MSTI). Even though he had been shot in the left shoulder, he continued to help by using his right arm to encourage people to keep running.
Pylons at LAX Lit Up in Blue in Honor of TSO Hernandez Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
Every day, thousands of TSA officers and employees report to checkpoints and checked baggage locations around the nation. Every one of them has sworn to protect the nation's transportation systems and in this line of work, an uneventful day is a good day.
Thank you to Officer Hernandez, and to all our TSOs working across the country.
John. S. Pistole