Grandpa heroes in the air

Grandpa heroes in the air

They don’t make them like this anymore. A 65-year-old retired Boston and Lowell cop and a retired US Marine Corps captain subdued an unruly passenger on a Minneapolis to Boston flight yesterday. As the cop, Bob Hayden, said: “So, basically, a couple of grandfathers took care of the situation.”

Sadly for my generation, when Hayden had looked around the cabin for help, “all the younger guys had averted their eyes.” Lucky for him, the Corps had his back: “When I asked the guy next to me if he was up to it, all he said was, ‘Retired captain. USMC.’ I said, ‘You’ll do.’”

Apparently one of the unruly men was mentally ill and the other was his brother.

Hayden said the unruly man’s behavior upset some passengers. One told Hayden the man had said, “Your lives are going to change today forever,” as he shouted and refused to take his seat before takeoff and at various times during the nearly three-hour flight. He said that at one point the man lay on his back and was screaming, moaning, and thrashing on the floor.

“Some people were crying,” Hayden said. “I thought it might be a diversion. I kept scanning the back of the plane to see if anyone was going to rush forward. The flight attendants did a great job, literally surrounding the two guys who were making all the noise. I told one of the flight attendants I was a retired police officer and would be willing to assist, so we agreed on a signal.”

But the best part is yet to come. Hayden’s wife had the best reaction of all, as she sat reading her book through the incident.

“The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading,” Katie Hayden said. “Bob’s been shot at. He’s been stabbed. He’s taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody’s neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn’t know how the book would end.”

It’s not just the guys who were tougher in the previous generation. Talk about a wife who knows and trusts her husband.

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  • Thank you for posting this—my son has left for Parris Island today.

    I am also reminded of a subway journey many years ago—I was going to see my OB, about eight months pregnant, at rush hour on the Cleveland Circle line.  There were many young men sitting, reading their newspapers on the way home from work.  I figured I was pretty young, so maybe it was OK that they didn’t give me a seat.  But then (I am not making this up!) a blind man stepped into the car, groping his way to the hanging straps.  Still no one stood and offered a seat.  I am not surprised that no one would help two older gentlemen on an airplane two decades later.