TSA Officer Cecilia Morales heard people screaming for help and knew she had to act quickly.
As a mom lifted her 2-month-old son from his car seat carrier to take him through security, she realized her baby wasn't breathing.
Those traveling with her couldn't help, and she screamed for help.
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Morales, a trained emergency medical technician (EMT) with 10 years of experience serving in several Northern New Jersey towns, shouted instructions over to the mother.
"But she was so nervous, and I knew if I didn't get over there, it wasn't going to be a good outcome," she said. "I jumped over the checkpoint conveyor belt rollers, and she gave me the baby. I performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him."
She held the infant carefully to keep his airway open, then she placed him face down on her arm and patted him on the back.
She got no response, so she tried again. The second time, he started to breathe again.
"The mother was too nervous and in shock to hold her son, so I carried the infant through the walk through metal detector," she said.
There, they waited for the pediatric EMT to arrive to give the baby some oxygen a short time later.
JUST IN: @TSA officer, a former EMT, hailed as a hero after she jumped over a checkpoint conveyor belt to perform Heimlich on an infant who stopped breathing at @EWRairport checkpoint, saving the baby’s life. #TSAHolidayMiracle. The news release: https://t.co/J1yuT05ysw pic.twitter.com/3NfRD7lvPh— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) December 23, 2021
Morales, a Newark resident who joined TSA in late October, previously performed the Heimlich on adults and children as an EMT, but this was the first time she had performed the life-saving technique on an infant.
"Two months on the job and she's literally a life-saver," said Thomas Carter, TSA's Federal Security Director for New Jersey. "Officer Morales' quick reaction and actions helped ensure that this family will have a happy holiday season. Her actions were inspiring."
Morales said seeing the incident played back was a new experience.
"I saw the video afterward," she 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."
TSA officials praised her reaction.
"If Officer Morales did not utilize her critical thinking, knowledge and quick response, perhaps we could have had a terrible outcome," TSA Manager Ayrana 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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