Jordana Judson heard the news that a family friend was killed in the Parkland school shooting near her childhood home. She jumped in a Lyft and raced over to New York’s LaGuardia Airport thinking it might be easier to buy a ticket and get on a flight home if she was there in person.
When her ride dropped her off at the airport early Thursday morning, Judson, 23, stood on the curb sobbing for a moment thinking about her family friend, Meadow Pollack, 18, and her former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the site of the deadly rampage.
“She was hysterically crying. We approached her and asked if she was all right,” said New York State Trooper Thomas Karasinski, 26. “She wasn’t able to get a lot of words out, but she was talking about the shooting in Florida.”
Karasinski and his partner, Trooper Robert Troy, who were on duty patrolling the curbside area of the airport, pointed the distraught Judson toward the ticket counter.
Judson made her way inside, and a ticket agent told her a one-way flight that would get her to Meadow’s vigil later that day would cost $700, an expense she couldn’t afford. She called her mother and cried into the phone.
With the phone pressed against her cheek, she looked up and saw the two troopers who had helped her outside by the curb. They were handing the ticket agent their credit cards to pay for her flight.
“I said, ‘You don’t need to do that,’ ” Judson said. “ ‘I can’t let this happen.’ ”
They said: “It’s done. Go be with your family.”
Judson, who works in public relations in New York, said she could barely fathom their generosity and didn’t know what to say. She gave them both a hug.
Karasinski said it was the first day he’d ever worked with Troy, 27, and the two didn’t discuss paying for Judson’s ticket. They just assessed the situation, and each reached for his wallet to pay for the ticket, which had been lowered to $600.
Actually, Karasinski said, Troy, who has been on the force for two years, reached in his pocket about a second ahead of Karasinski.
“He went first for his wallet, and I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed my credit card as well,” Karasinski said. “The ticket agent was shocked for a second. Jordana looked up and was in shock.”
She then thanked them profusely, Karasinski said, while still crying. “She was in a terrible state,” he said.
Karasinski, who has been with the force for three years, said he’d never paid for someone’s plane ticket before. But helping people is not new for him.
“Going above and beyond is what we do,” said Karasinski, who is from New York. “It might sound cliche, but that’s what we do. Every day we try to find someone to help.”
Judson made it home just in time to get to the vigil for Meadow, who was a senior.
Judson, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2012, had a special connection to Meadow. Judson’s brother Ryan has been close friends with Meadow’s brother Hunter since they were small children. Judson’s father died of cancer when she was 8, and Meadow’s father stepped in and was like a father figure to her brother.
Jordana Judson and Meadow, while several years apart in age, were almost like family to each other.
Judson went to Meadow’s parents’ home for Shiva, a Jewish tradition of a solemn gathering at the mourner’s home, and said the rabbi ended his service by starting to tell Judson’s story from the airport in an attempt to end the evening on a positive note. Judson got up and told the crowd of about 200 people her story in her own words. She said she hoped it brought some relief, if fleeting, for the mourners.
“What the officers did provided comfort in the moment. It made my heart full,” Judson said. “It was just a selfless act of humanity. We need to see more of that to balance out all the bad in the world.”
She added that for years she has volunteered to help people less fortunate than her, something she learned from her mother. When she’s having a bad day, she said, she’ll buy coffee for someone who is in line behind her at Starbucks.
“People need to step up and do good things,” she said. “It makes the bad things a little less bad.”