GREAT COPS: How Orlando Police Officers Rivera, Owen, and Rodriguez Saved My Sanity
Think about it… it was the eve of my parent’s joint death anniversary, and I wanted it to be as calm as possible and it started as such, but little did I know, 2 days of airport cancellations followed by wisely adopted silver linings and punctuated by the loss of one’s luggage with one’s two cell phones, wallet, passport, and other very important personal and client documents to name some. It was DEVASTATING to say the least, awaited me. The complexity behind Federal TSA officers and local Orlando police officers roles and their functions added to the drama, not to mention the need to remember that I NEEDED these officers… I had to be on their good side, control my anger, agree at the right time and disagree agreeably, just like I had to work with the airlines even though their decisions were hurting me for good or bad reasons.
So, I was supposed to return from Long Island NY’s MacArthur Airport (“ISP”) this past Saturday, and even boarded the plane for a non-stop flight from Long Island to Fort Myers (“RSW”), something that I had done many times before. However, this time, I was told to deplane the aircraft along with the rest of the flyers due to Weather complications at the Traffic Center in Jacksonville, FL… I was furious, but it was the eve of my parents’ shared death anniversary and as such I calmed myself down in their honor. I rebooked my ticket on my cell phone for the next available flight on the next day, only to find out that there would be a layover in Orlando… and despite not being happy about the situation, I accepted it saying that there was a reason for the madness and all things happen to bless those that loved God, after all, it was being rescheduled to the day of my parent’s joint death anniversary.
I returned to Long Island and enjoyed another day there, and woke up at 4 AM for my 6AM flight, which was uneventful, except that we were told during the Orlando layover that the next flight to Fort Myers was cancelled. Again, I had to be rescheduled for the following day… Unlike others who remained on the line for 7+ hours, I opted to go spend time with my ex-wife and youngest daughter and returned to the airport after midnight to get booked on the next flight to Orlando. So far so good, right? Well, not quite.
As I went through the TSA checkpoint, after I was told that I did not need to remove anything from my luggage, and could keep my shoes on, I was told by one of the TSA agents that I had some items in my pocket, which were just pens, and that I had to remove them and place them in a container. By the time I walked through the scanner again, someone had already “mistakenly” grabbed by luggage, which had EVERYTHING that was important in it, including my PASSPORT, my TWO CELL PHONES, my WALLET, and very important electronic and physical personal and client files and documents among others. I recall losing my laptop once and how it felt until I retrieved it, but this feeling was even worse because I had not way of contacting anyone without my cell phones or laptop. I was devastated.
I was already unhappy about being in the vast and densely occupied Orlando International Airport as opposed to the customary easy Long Island and Fort Myers one. But again, my love and respect for my parents was too immense to be bothered. I first spoke to a camera control gentleman, who explained the protocols to me including taking a report. I quickly told the TSA agent (a Federal employee) and the Police Officer (a City of Orlando Employee) that I had no interest in filing report, that I NEEDED to get my luggage which had my everything in it and that if they couldn’t do it, I would have to do it by myself. Moreover, I told them that I TRUSTED their process but so far, it’s FAILED ME. The agent directed me to OFFICER OWEN, who then CONNECTED ME to Officers RIVERA and RODRIGUEZ and they all assured me that they’d do their best to help after they reviewed video footage of me depositing my luggage on the conveyor belt and realized that a senior Citizen had grabbed my luggage instead of hers. The next challenge would be to find her among all those people in over 100 gates in the vast Orlando airport.
It would prove to be a daunting task, but they did pull it off. At the beginning, I told them that they couldn’t let my clients down and told them I needed to find the luggage and I told them it was all happening around my parents’ joint death anniversary. They became empathetic and left their posts to work together to find my luggage for me.
I was so impressed. It reminded me of the DICHOTOMY of GOOD OFFICERS vs. BAD OFFICERS. Really, these officers were amazing people… HOWEVER – I too had to CONTROL or MANAGE my ANGER and TONE… there are times when the officers had to REMIND me to calm down and time when I had to back down on my rhetoric and use reverse psychology to encourage the officers to believe that I do appreciate them and do have FAITH in them. After all, who else had both the authority and means to assist along in the duality of FEDERAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, in which one side literally uttered, “THIS IS NOT PART OF MY JOB.”
I was so impressed because even after finding my luggage the level of empathy that they showed was a mazing. Officer Rodriguez even shook my hand firmly and rubbed my back to empathize about the joint anniversary of my parents’ death. She, too, played a role in the recovery of my luggage which had EVERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT that I possessed at that time. This experience was NOT ONLY another experience to REMIND me of THE AMAZING JOINT ANNIVERSARY OF MY PARENTS’ but also it was another amazing example of my amazing experiences of HEROIC officers. WE NEED COPS and WE LOVE COPS and just like there are good and bad people out there, there are also good and bad cops too, but most people and cops are decent enough and they cannot be boxed with the rest.
I could have easily lost the most important things that had with me earlier. I then realized the trend that for every 1 evil officer out there, there are probably 5 heroic ones. The latter is probably much better than the ratio of good to evil in our communities.
OFFICERS RIVERA, OWEN, and RODRIGUEZ, you were my heroes today, and I am proud of you. I know I was DEMANDING, FRUSTASTED and RATHER CONCISE in my plea, but you guys understood and despite it all, thanks to you I ended up with a happy ending. I also must thank the TSA officers that tolerated me long enough to direct me to the Orlando police officers. I want to thank them for the HARD WORK that they do daily.
As a Black man, I used to have a negative view of officers that I was conditioned to have by the news and by a few isolated incidents with which I contributed… I have even historically rebuked the actions of many corrupt police officers or departments. HOWEVER – during the past 9 years, I have realized that we don’t only need police officers, but they are our heroes just by serving and that on any given day even a mediocre police officer’s presence can make the difference between emotional distress and relief… and yes just like in the general population there are some bad apples, but for the most part, most officers are eager to serve and eager to be OUR HEROES one incident at a time.
Thank you again, officers OWEN, RIVERA, and RODRIGUEZ… Officer Rivera and Owen were patient and professional in contextualizing their job functions even when I lost my cool a little a couple of times. They educated me about the collaboration of Federal and Local Governments in an Airport setting and the complexity of locating the person on video and track her among hundreds of other travelers at one of the busiest airports on her.
May God bless them and like GOD and the souls of my parents (that kept me calm), they will never be FORGOTTEN for the things that they helped me accomplish on those 2 days of airport and luggage drama! YUP… NEVER FORGOTTEN Mama and Papa… uh huh… NEVER FORGOTTEN Officers Rivera, Owen, and Rodriguez.
I will never FORGET my PARENTS' joint death anniversary even more because of this day, and of course, despite their imperfections, I will never forget the HEROIC EFFORTS of those amazing efforts and my level of control and poise in asking them to BYPASS the REPORT and FOCUS on finding my luggage even if I had to do it alone. They listened to me and found it as expeditiously as they humanly could under the circumstances. Love you lots Mama and Papa and love you as well OFFICERS. You will NEVER BE FORGOTTEN!
IN A RUSH!
Pete Lorins (The Son of Peter and Martha)