Public memorial held for TSA officer killed in LAX shooting
Colleagues of the Transportation Security Administration officer shot and killed during a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport honored his life and service Tuesday at a memorial of song, memories and honor guard ceremony.
“It has been difficult,” said TSA Supervisory Officer Sheleta Fraceser, who emceed the memorial. “But through all the love and support received and the grace of God, my co-workers and I have begun a healing process.”
A lone gunman who was reportedly targeting TSA officers at LAX shot Gerardo Hernandez, 39, on Nov. 1 as the victim checked passengers through Terminal 3. Hernandez was a father of two and the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty.
The service Tuesday at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena began with a solemn eulogy followed by a soulful rendition of "Amazing Grace," performed by a chorus of blue-uniformed TSA officials.
Hernandez’s family attended but did not speak. Instead, an LAX airport security official read a note written by Hernandez's wife, Ana Machuca. She wrote that Hernandez was the youngest of four sons who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when he was 15 years old. He graduated from Los Angeles High School.
The couple met as teenagers, married on Valentine’s Day 15 years ago and raised two children together: a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. Hernandez would have turned 40 years old last weekend.
“I am devastated,” Machuca wrote. “We are all heartbroken and will miss him dearly.”
Acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers presented an American honor flag to Hernandez’s wife on bended knee.
Friend of the family Cesar Perez said the cheerful TSA officer who always had a smile taught him what it meant to be a committed husband and loving father.
"I guarantee you that he left with no loose ends,” said Perez. “And only a man with that type of dedication to his family can do this.”
The sharply dressed TSA officers, L.A. Airport Police officers and security guards, LAPD officers and airlines pilots filled sections of seats at the memorial. Two other TSA officers who were wounded, Tony Grigsby and James Speer, also attended the services.
Alleged gunman Paul Ciancia is still in the hospital and has been charged with Hernandez's murder.
TSA officers are committed to their duties despite the tragedy, said TSA Supervisory Officer Danielle Arocho, who is assigned to Terminal 3 and worked with Hernandez. Fighting tears, she said Hernandez respected and cared for all passengers and employees and adjusted to change easily and with great integrity.
“He is our hero,” Arocho said. “We will hold our heads high and continue to protect each other, as that is what Gerardo would have wanted of his team.”
TSA Administrator John Pistole attended the services along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The actions that you all took on that terrible day remind us that courage and compassion will always be stronger than violence and hate,” Pistole told the TSA officers.
Some of the public who attended wore royal blue to honor Hernandez’s service to the TSA. Blue ribbons with his picture were also pinned to attendees.
RELATED: KPCC coverage of the shooting at LAX
This story has been updated.