Blue Line Hero Tells His Story: 'We're Human and We Need Each Other'
WEST TOWN - The off-duty TSA worker who jumped onto the Blue Line tracks to halt an oncoming train Wednesday and save a woman said he wasn't trying to be a hero, he just knew he had to help.
"We're good in America, but we still need each other. That's all I can say," Eddie Palacios, 50, told DNAinfo Chicago. "I hope one day if I need something, my kids need something, somebody else needs something, somebody will be there. That's what I hope and pray for."
Palacios was on the underground Chicago Avenue Blue Line station's platform, waiting for the train to go to his job as a checkpoint worker at O'Hare Airport, when he heard people yelling at a woman who had fallen onto the inbound tracks just after 11 a.m.
"I heard somebody yell, 'She fell, she fell! You gotta get out of the way! The train is coming!' So I turned around to see what they were talking about," Palacios said.
"I looked over and saw a lady just yelling. When I looked over, I actually thought it was a child who had fallen. They actually staggered three times trying to get up and get out of the way.
"When I saw the train coming, the first thing I thought to myself was, 'OK, I've got an orange hoodie on. They are bound to see me.' And I jumped on the train [tracks] so they can at least see me, and I'd have time [to get] the person out of the way. I was hoping someone would jump down to help them up because I could see they couldn't get up."
Listen to our interview with Palacios here:
DNAinfo Radio News Director Jon Hansen was on the other end of the platform, waiting for the inbound train, and videotaped the rescue.
The video shows Palacios waving his arms to alert the train, which then stopped short of the platform. The woman was hoisted onto the platform by her hair. She sat on the ground briefly, bleeding from her head. She told a commuter "I just slipped."
She then got up and bolted up the escalator before eventually being stopped and loaded onto an ambulance. She was hospitalized. Her identity is not known.
"Luckily enough, CTA stopped to give us the time to get her off the tracks," Palacios said.
Palacios, meanwhile, quickly boarded a train and went to work. He said during an on-platform interview that he was TSA worker named "Eddie."
DNAinfo later interviewed him after work late Wednesday.
“It was really nothing. It was nothing, in the sense ... I have to look myself in the mirror, and I have to look at myself and feel good about myself," said Palacios, the father of a son and daughter.
Palacios, a lifelong Chicagoan who grew up in Pilsen, said he quietly briefed his supervisor once he reached O'Hare Airport. But his co-workers soon found out.
"As long as I was feeling good that I did something, I didn't think anybody needed to know," he said. "Even when I went to work, people found out just recently, before I left, they said me, 'How come you didn't say anything?' I said, 'Well, the only person I have to answer to is my wife.' She's the only one I talk to, and everybody else is secondary. Because I didn't do it to brag about it or anything, because there was nothing to brag. I was just worried about the person more than anyone else."
His fellow commuters praised him on the scene.
"That man is really a hero," said Rita Sattler, who grabbed the woman by her hair in an effort to get her off the tracks. "I don't think I could have stood on the tracks."
Palacios said he is uncomfortable being cast as a hero.
"I wasn't even thinking about putting myself in danger because I work at TSA. They taught us a lot of things to do and how to act in situations, not to put ourselves in harm or put other people in harm," he said.
"One of the things that really bothers me is that, there's a lot of us that go there and give our all to TSA, and half the time we're the butt of people's jokes. And TSA does do good things. They do good training for us so we know how to be sensitive to the public, how to do make sure we do certain things.
"That's what actually kicked in. I've been with them 12 years, and I have 12 years of experience, and it was just second nature. I didn't really think I was putting myself in danger because I wouldn't be that reckless. I was just trying to calculate the length of the train and how much time I had before I had to make the decision and get out of the way."
Palacios said his son called him, asking why he didn't tell him.
"I was kind of embarrassed because my son called me, upset at me. He said he has to hear it from the grapevine; how come I didn't call him and let him know.
“We're human, and we need each other. That's the bottom line. We really do. We've got to," he said. "It's nice that people acknowledge, but I think it's nicer to know the young lady is fine, and it's nicer to know I had a small part. We all have a small part in everybody's lives."