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Rookie TSA agent saves baby during busy holiday travel

Her years of EMT training kicked in.
Credit: TSA

NEWARK, N.J. — A rookie TSA officer recently saved a baby's life at a security checkpoint inside Newark Liberty International, the agency announced Thursday.

A young mom had lifted her 2-month-old son from his carrier seat – only to realize the infant wasn't breathing.

Officer Cecilia Morales, who only joined the TSA in October, heard people screaming for help and jumped into action. As those around her would quickly learn, Morales is a trained EMT with a decade's worth of experience across New Jersey.

Morales shouted instructions to the mom, then leapt over checkpoint conveyor belt rollers and performed the infant Heimlich maneuver.

“I saw the video afterward,” Morales said. “It was the first time I’ve ever seen myself in action, saving a life. It was mind-blowing to watch. I felt that my training and experience just took over.”

Morales held the infant, making sure to keep his airway open, the TSA explained. She put him face-down on her arm and patted his back.

There was no response.

Morales, tried again. This time, the child began to breathe.

“The mother was too nervous and in shock to hold her son, so I carried the infant through the walk through metal detector," Morales explained in a statement. 

For Morales, who lives in Newark, this was a new experience. She had only done the Heimlich on adults and children – never an infant. The TSA says, after saving the child, she waited for a pediatric EMT to show up and give the baby oxygen.

“Two months on the job and she’s literally a life-saver,” Thomas Carter, TSA’s federal security director for New Jersey, wrote in a statement. “Officer Morales’s quick reaction and actions helped ensure that this family will have a happy holiday season. Her actions were inspiring.”

TSA Manager Ayrana Frazier echoed the praise.

“If Officer Morales did not utilize her critical thinking, knowledge and quick response, perhaps we could have had a terrible outcome,” Frazier said. “In the moment Officer Morales was selfless, and her priority was to save a life. We are proud to call her one of our own.”

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