A Transportation Security Administration agent with just two months on the job heard a mother's screams for help and leaped over a conveyor belt at Newark Liberty International Airport to save her choking infant, the agency says.
According to officials, the mother picked her 2-month-old son up from his carrier to take him through the security checkpoint and noticed he wasn't breathing.
She turned frantically to other travelers in line and shouted for help when she wasn't able to get her baby to respond.
Cecilia Morales, a Newark resident who joined TSA in late October, jumped into action. Though her time with the TSA has been brief, Morales is a trained EMT with 10 years of experience serving a number of northern New Jersey towns.
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Morales shouted instructions to the mother in an effort to help her revive the child, then realized the mother was too frightened to focus clearly.
"I knew if I didn't get over there, it wasn't going to be a good outcome," Morales said. "I jumped over the checkpoint conveyor belt rollers and she gave me the baby. I performed the infant Heimlich maneuver on him."
Morales says she held the baby carefully to keep his airway open, then placed him face down on her arm and patted him on the back. No response.
She tried again. Then he started to breathe.
Morales carried the baby through the metal detector too, with the mother too in "shock to hold her son," and waited for the pediatric EMT to arrive a short time later with some oxygen for the baby boy. The whole thing was caught on video.
“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.”
This was the first time she had performed the Heimlich maneuver on an infant, though she had done it on adults and children before as an EMT.
TSA Federal Security Director for New Jersey Thomas Carter called the new hire a "life-saver" and calling her actions "inspiring."
Ayrana Frazier, TSA manager, agreed.
“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."