Finding a 5-cent needle in a haystack is one thing, but how about finding a diamond worth thousands of dollars at an airport checkpoint. That’s just what TSA officers did earlier this summer in Albany, New York.
After passing through the TSA security screening process at Albany International Airport, Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Louetta “Rainy” Littman spotted a passenger crying at the back of the checkpoint. The woman was upset when she realized the setting on her engagement ring was damaged and the pear-shaped diamond was lost.
“I reassured her that her ring was not lost yet,” Littman said. TSA officers continued to screen passengers who entered the checkpoint while Littman and a few other officers began to hunt for the missing stone. Officers were on their hands and knees looking for the diamond from the ticket document checking station through the entire checkpoint lane. They also went through the stack of bins and peered under the machines. Some of the officers even used flashlights in hope of getting a glimmer from the diamond. All the while, other officers continued to stay focused on security screening.
After about 10 minutes, officer Steven Kaminski glanced at a bin with a tissue left inside of it. “Nobody had looked in that bin yet, so I looked in and there it was,” he said of the diamond, which was resting next to the tissue. “I just wanted to help her out. I know I would have been disappointed if I had lost a valuable item like that and nobody had helped me.”
Albany TSA Officers who searched for the missing diamond include, from left, STSO Louetta “Rainy” Littman, TSO Steven Kaminski, LTSOs Andrew Praga and Michael Bouck, and TSO Marta Havrylyshyn. (Photo by Jeanne Mattison/TSA)
The traveler, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was quite relieved. “She squeezed the air out of me with a huge hug,” Littman said, and she hugged all of the other officers who were involved in the diamond hunt as well.
“I have never in my life been so panicked and upset in an airport, let alone anywhere else in public before,” wrote Kana Chi-Murenbeeld in a thank you note to TSA. Chi-Murenbeeld, who has been married for three years, has worn the ring for four years. “Somehow the prong of the stone in my engagement ring broke. The amazingly kind and caring supervisor on duty Louetta Littman, was on top of the situation right away, having her team of officers scour the area as well as calm me down with her optimistic attitude.”
The center diamond from this engagement ring disappeared from its setting while Kana Chi-Murenbeeld was passing through the TSA checkpoint at Albany International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Kana Chi-Murenbeeld)
Chi-Murenbeeld said that she went from “one of the worst feelings ever” when she realized the diamond was missing to grateful elation. “I have traveled all around the world and can say in all honesty that I have never met such an amazing team of workers in the airline or security industry” than the group of TSA officers she encountered in Albany.
“I am always very proud of what the officers do every day in protecting the flying public, and this incident really stands out. It truly highlights the professionalism and compassion of a group of officers who genuinely went above and beyond the call of duty and I commend them for it,” said TSA upstate New York Federal Security Director Bart Johnson.