I have known Jabir Hazziez for years, our orbits intersected many times in the emergency room; outside work, we have a lot of mutual friends, so when I read in yesterday’s paper that he was the quiet, unassuming hero on a flight to Kansas City late last month after another passenger had a horrific and violent reaction to a vaccine and was literally foaming at the mouth and lunging at the cockpit door, I wasn’t surprised. He’s one of those most rare specimens…he is an everyday hero.
When a crew member called over the PA asking for anyone with any medical training, he heard the fear and concern in her voice and did what he does every day if his life as a KCMO firefighter and HAZMAT specialist, a reserve Jackson County deputy and a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve: He stood up, and he responded.
He didn’t know what he was getting into as he moved to the front of the plane, he just knew that something was wrong, and if it could be dealt with at 30,000 feet, he was the one most likely to have the skill set to deal with it.
As Hazziez walked toward the front of the plane, he saw a man pacing and holding his head in his hands. The man appeared to be in an “altered mental state” and clearly appeared agitated.
“He was trying to get to the door of the plane,” Hazziez recalled recently. “I grabbed ahold of him and tried to calm him down.
“But the man only became more combative and knocked Hazziez into the cockpit door.
Using his law enforcement training, Hazziez put the man in a neck restraint and took him to the floor. The man continued kicking and trying to reach the door with his feet. Another passenger grabbed the man’s legs.
Together they held him for about 15 or 20 minutes until the plane, which had taken off in Atlanta, made an emergency landing in Memphis and authorities came on board to deal with the man.
I’m sure the thanks that other passengers showered on him as the flight resumed after the emergency landing in Memphis embarrassed him, and he could have probably done without the standing ovation as he deplaned in Kansas City when the flight finally landed safely at KCI.
And not one of those people applauding him that day gave a damn about one minor detail that is central to Jabir Hazziez’s life and how he lives it, at least not at that moment in time, they didn’t, anyway:
The man who stood up and put himself between peril and the rest of the passengers that day is a faithful, practicing Muslim.