Reward & Recognition Winners - 2009
MIA's Hero of the Year - 2009

IA Hero of the Year Award winner Mohamed Badenjki
Pictured with MIA Hero of the Year Award winner Mohamed Badenjki (center) are, from left to right: Miami-Dade Assistant Aviation Director of Operations Lauren Stover; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Airport Division Chief Levi Thomas; Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu; American Airlines Customer Service Director Jim Moses; Miami-Dade Police Department Airport Division Major Daniel Llano-Montes; and Miami-Dade Aviation Division Director of Terminal Operations and Customer Service Dickie Davis.

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MIA's Employees of the Year - 2009

Employees of the Year Award winners Yomara Pineda, Veronica Ruiz and Christopher Maria
Employees of the Year Award winners Yomara Pineda, Veronica Ruiz and Christopher Maria (center) receive their awards from (left to right): Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Bill Talbert; TSA Assistant Federal Security Director Rob Mclaughlin; Aviation Director José Abreu; and MDAD Terminal Operations and Customer Service Division Director Dickie Davis.

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Winner - January 2009

DeJean Fenil Livan

DeJean Fenil Livan

Eulen America - ASMO

During his lunch break on January 7, 2009, DeJean assisted a passenger who was in distress and could not walk to her departure gate. She had not arranged for a wheelchair and the airline did not have one available. Without hesitation, DeJean found a wheelchair and took her to the gate. His excellent customer service and smile were directed not only to the passenger, but to her family as well. After taking the passenger to the gate, he returned to the family to reassure them that their loved one was okay. According to the passenger, DeJean “…could not have been more helpful and friendly.”


Winner - February 2009
Detra Johnson

Detra Johnson
Landside Operations Officer II

Miami-Dade Aviation Department

On January 14, 2009, Detra assisted a passenger who had lost his cell phone, which contained all his personal and business information, in a taxi. The passenger and his girlfriend returned to MIA to try to find it. After two hours of talking to cab drivers, he encountered Landside Officer Detra Johnson. The passenger praised Detra’s caring spirit and interest in assisting him. Detra not only tracked down the phone, but personally delivered it to his hotel the following day. According to the passenger, Detra not only saved his telephone and his important information, she also saved his vacation.  

Winners - March 2009
Veronica Ruiz, Yomara Pineda, & Christopher Maria

Veronica Ruiz
Yomara Pineda
Christopher Maria


According to the son of an elderly man who was suffering from forgetfulness, TSA Officers Ruiz, Pineda and Maria were “wonderful, compassionate and warm” when, over a two-day period, they assisted in reuniting his parents. On March 10, 2009, the officers encountered an elderly woman who was distraught. Despite a language barrier, they understood her problem. Three hours earlier, after she and her husband arrived from Paris, her husband went to rent a car and had not returned. Working as a team, the three TSA employees went into action. Officer Ruiz called car rental agencies and notified the Police and Aviation Department. She used her personal cell phone to notify the woman's family in Philadelphia, who then sent photographs of the husband to the police so that identification flyers could be circulated throughout MIA. The family was frantic and contacted investigators to assist in finding their missing father. Due to the work of the three TSA officers, the investigators would not be needed. The TSA officers calmed the passenger and reassured her that things would be all right. Working with others, they booked a hotel room for her. All three officers stayed with the passenger hours beyond their shift, reassuring and assisting her. The next day, TSA Officers Pineda and Maria spotted the woman's husband wandering on the first level. After confirmation of his identity, law enforcement was contacted and the couple reunited. The passengers’ son described this event as his father’s “first case of profound forgetfulness,” which caused his mother extreme anguish. He wrote, “My mother will keep you in her heart and thanks you deeply.”

Winner - April 2009
Yvonne Lewis

Yvonne Lewis
Landside Operations Officer II

George Delgado (photo not available)
Landside Operations Officer I

Miami-Dade Aviation Department

After noticing an elderly woman sitting on the curb for two hours, Landside Officer Delgado  determined that she had arrived from Jamaica and due to a delay in service, had missed her connecting flight to Hartford, Connecticut. Officer Delgado advised his colleague, Officer Lewis, and together, they got a wheelchair and took the passenger to her airline. At the counter, they advocated for the passenger, securing a meal voucher and a room at the Hotel MIA. When looking for contact phone numbers in the passenger's possessions, the officers discovered that she had no money. Officer Delgado gave her money from his own funds. Officer Lewis contacted her son in Connecticut, reassured and advised him that his mother would arrive at 2 PM the next day. Her son was extremely grateful to Officers Delgado and Lewis.

Winners - May 2009
Rickita Grant, Anthony Cooper, Ronny Urdaneta, & Maurice Wright

May 2009

Rickita Grant
MDAD – Terminal Operations

Anthony Cooper
MDAD – Terminal Operations

Ronny Urdaneta
MIA Hotel

Maurice Wright
MDAD – Terminal Operations

On April 2, 2009, a passenger missed her connecting flight to Bermuda. Tony, Rickita, Maurice and Ronny worked as a team to assist the passenger. Together, they helped her find phone numbers of her friends in Miami. According to the passenger, Tony Cooper "pulled out all the stops" by making phone calls for her and authorizing long-distance calls to Peru and London, "repeatedly checking that all was well." Rickita loaned the passenger her personal cell phone battery and when that lost its charge, provided the passenger with a charger. The passenger praised Rickita for her supportive manner. Maurice, working at MIA’s Information Counter, assisted by making numerous phone calls for the passenger and providing service with a smile. The MIA team’s efforts paid off; they ultimately located her grandson, who came to MIA to pick her up. The grateful passenger stated that the team made “…what could have been a distressing experience a pleasant one.”

Winner - June 2009
Santia Masunu

Sautia L. Masunu
Fleet Service Clerk

American Airlines

Sautia works for American Airlines in cabin service on the ramp. On June 22, however, he worked at MIA as an Ambassador of Goodwill. On his break in the terminal, he encountered a group of elderly passengers having trouble with their luggage. He did not hesitate to obtain a luggage cart, assist in loading their bags and help them find their ticket counter. The nominator described Sautia’s gesture as “yet another example of excellent customer service at MIA.”


Winners - July 2009
Tabitha Higuera, Nataya Williams, & Jason Albury

Tabitha Higuera
Supervisory Transportation Security Officer

Nataya Williams
Lead Transportation Security Officer

Jason Albury
Supervisory Transportation Security Officer


On their way to Checkpoint F, TSA Officers Higuera and Williams came across a 5-year old boy in tears and his mother trying to console him. They noted that his shoe had been damaged by an escalator and, fortunately, he was not hurt. The boy and his family had to hurry to their gate for their flight to Mexico. The TSA team was determined to make a difference. They ran to the Mindworks store in the terminal and bought a pair of shoes for the boy with their own funds. At the gate, the mother was moved to tears when she saw what the officers had done and the little boy was literally jumping with joy. The mother commented that she had tried to buy new shoes down the concourse but could find none, and had it not been for the TSA team, her son would have traveled in his socks.

Winner - August 2009
Patrick Paulemont - Secure Wrap

Patrick Paulemonth

Secure Wrap

On August 11, 2009,  Patrick had just finished wrapping bags for a customer. The customer, in her rush to check in for her flight to Haiti, left her wallet with a substantial amount of cash, at the wrap station in front of American Airlines. Patrick found the wallet, realized who the owner was and that he still had time to return it to her if he hurried. The passenger was so relieved when she saw him arrive at the gate, she cried. When Patrick was asked why he didn't simply take the wallet to Lost and Found, he explained that time was of the essence and that he knew, “In Haiti, this is a lot of money.” The nominator wrote that Patrick went “out of his way to do the right thing.” We agree.

Winners - September 2009
Suset Otero - Hotel MIAPedro Garcia - Hotel MIA
Yoendris Ho - Hotel MIAMichael Smith - TSA

Suset Otero
Front Desk Supervisor - Hotel MIA

Pedro Garcia
Bellman - Hotel MIA

Yoendris Ho
Bellman - Hotel MIA

Michael Smith
Supervisory Transportation Security Officer

On the night of September 17, 2009, TSA Officer Smith was walking down the terminal when he was approached by a woman holding a newborn baby and accompanied by a teenager. The passenger was crying. She had missed her flight and would not be leaving MIA until 4 PM the next day. She told Officer Smith that she had no money and would be sleeping on the floor with her children. Officer Smith took them to the Hotel MIA, booked them into a room and paid for it with his own money. He got them a room at a discounted rate thanks to Hotel MIA employee, Suset Otero, who was working at the front desk. Hotel bellmen Pedro Garcia and Yoendris Ho jumped in to help and took them to the food court, paying for their meals with their own money. The next day, Ms. Otero had the hotel restaurant send breakfast to the family's room. These employees’ heartfelt kindness and caring went well beyond the call of duty and transformed a family’s experience at MIA.

Winner - October 2008
Darin Macey - American Airlines

Darin Macey
Crew Chief - American Airlines

On August 11, 2009, Darin was by gate E-7 when he saw a young woman with two small children, collapse in cardiac arrest. He began to administer CPR, along with Mohamed Badenjki (see December 2009). Darin worked diligently to revive the passenger, including using a defibrillator. Many people might have hesitated to help or even get involved, in such a serious situation. But Darin did not think twice. He acted swiftly and compassionately to assist a passenger in distress.   


Winner - November 2008
Robert Lopez - American Airlines

Roberto Lopez
Agent - American Airlines

On November 20, 2009, an elderly woman's flight to Dallas was delayed multiple times and eventually canceled. The next day, nervous and in a rush, she returned to the airport without her carry-on bag. Roberto Lopez stepped in to help her. The woman phoned her daughters and Roberto advised them that he was going to take care of their mother as if she were his own mom. He did just that. He did some detective work and found she had left her missing carry-on bag in her hotel shuttle. He arranged for the bag to be returned to her at MIA. He booked her on standby on a couple of flights, got her a wheelchair, and had her quickly taken to her departure gate. He then phoned the passenger's daughter to inform her that her mother was on the plane and would be home soon. The daughter stated that Roberto “…gave me the peace of mind I wanted." She also stated that Roberto was “the guardian angel we all pray we have when we travel." According to the passenger’s daughter, “I’ve told the story of how Robert helped my mom so many times! Thanks!”


Winner - December 2008
Mohamed Badenjki - American Airlines

Mohamed Badenjki
Customer Service Manager

American Airlines

His co-workers have started calling him Dr. Mo; there’s a good reason for that. On August 11, 2009, Mohamed was called to gate E-7 where a young woman, traveling with a 9 year old boy and an 11 year old girl, had gone into cardiac arrest. Mohamed, along with American Airlines Crew Chief Darin Macey, alternated doing CPR on the passenger. Mohamed arranged for her children to be cared for at a nearby gate, away from the emergency. When Fire Rescue arrived, Mohamed went outside on the curb and asked the police to take the children in a separate car to the hospital. He checked on them at the hospital and called the passenger’s husband. August 11 was a full day for Mohamed; but August 15 would prove to be even busier.  

Four days later, on August 15 at about 11 PM, Mohamed was at gate E-6 when an elderly passenger lost consciousness. Mohamed retrieved the emergency kit from a nearby aircraft and began CPR on the passenger until paramedics arrived. The passenger was transported by paramedics to the hospital while Mohamed called the passenger’s son in Belize and arranged for his expedited travel to Miami. About 40 minutes later, Mohamed got a call that there was a problem at gate E-10. At the gate, he found a passenger in distress and again, Mohamed went into an aircraft, got the emergency kit and began CPR on the passenger, alternating with the man’s traveling companion. When the paramedics arrived on the scene, they recognized AA’s Dr. Mo. When asked how he learned CPR, Mohamed modestly says, “I have a little boy; he was going to take swimming class and I thought it might be a good thing to know.”  

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