O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Eddie Palacios, who jumped on the Blue Line tracks to protect a fallen woman, as a "true public citizen."
Palacios' action is an example of how all airport employees treat their duty to take care of the traveling public as "more than a job," the mayor said at a Friday event unveiling of a rehabbed Terminal 5 at O'Hare International Airport.
"That's an accurate statement," Palacios said after learning of the mayor's praise. "We believe in honesty and integrity in the work we do as a team. The public is part of our team. It wasn't a big deal. I did what anyone on my team would do."
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, when he heard people yelling at a woman who had fallen onto the inbound tracks just after 11 a.m. Wednesday.
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.
Immediately after the incident, Palacios got on a train toward the airport and called his wife telling her about what he had done, he said.
"He didn't explain in detail. He didn't tell me he was a few feet away," said wife Carolina Palacios.
It was not until their son showed her the video of the incident did she realize what he had done.
"When I saw the footage, I was shaken. I didn't realize that the train was oncoming," she said. "I think it is a big deal. He sees it as a small act."
Once Eddie Palacios got to work, the lifelong Chicagoan, who grew up in Pilsen, quietly briefed his supervisor. But his co-workers soon found out.
Since then, Palacios has been on a whirlwind of media interviews.
Carolina Palacios said her family is large and private. The attention on her husband's act had "really taken us by surprise," she said.
"I wasn't surprised that he would do something like that," she said, pointing out his work protecting airport checkpoint. "We just wish that this [protecting others] was more common, instead of uncommon."
When he returns to work Sunday at O'Hare, Eddie Palacios will be awarded with a commemorative TSA coin and given an additional week of vacation, according to Jim McKinney, a TSA spokesman.
Palacios said he doesn't think any of that attention is warranted.
"I don't think I saved her life. I think I saved her from not being hurt as much," Palacios said. "It wasn't a big deal."
Contributing: Josh McGhee