Jabir Hazziez is the kind of guy that’s good to have around. The Kansas City firefighter, reserve Jackson County deputy and member of the U.S. Naval Reserve clearly has a passion for keeping people safe. But he never expected to be in the spotlight for saving lives. Yet there he is.
Hazziez was with his fellow Thanksgiving travelers cruising at 30,000 feet toward Kansas City when a man foaming at the mouth lunged for the airliner's cabin door.
The man fought off flight attendants in multiple attempts to open the cabin door at the front of the aircraft.
Most of the passengers, including Jabir, weren’t even aware of the fact that something was wrong until a crewmember came on the intercom asking if anyone had medical training.
So Jabir Hazziez Jr. went up front to see if there was anything he could do to help.
What happened next came as no surprise to those who know and work with Hazziez. As the firefighter and reserve deputy walked toward the front of the plane, he saw a man pacing and holding his head in his hands. The man appeared to be in an "altered mental state" and clearly appeared agitated.
"He was trying to get to the door of the plane," Hazziez recalled in an interview with the Kansas City Star. "I grabbed a hold of him and tried to calm him down."
But the emotionally disturbed man got even more combative and knocked Hazziez into the cockpit door.
Using his law enforcement training, Hazziez put the man in a neck restraint and took him to the floor. Again, this only made the EDP more agitated. With Hazziez holding his upper body, the man continued kicking and trying to reach the door with his feet.
Thankfully at that point another passenger grabbed the man's legs. Together the two heroes held him for about 15 or 20 minutes until the plane could make an emergency landing in Memphis.
After responding officers took the disturbed man into custody, Hazziez found out that the suspect was not a terrorist but instead suffered an adverse reaction to a vaccine.
“I'm glad it was a medical situation and not a criminal incident," Hazziez told reporters.
"It could have been a lot worse." When the flight resumed, Hazziez was literally showered with pats on the back and thanks from his fellow passengers.
He even got a standing ovation when he got off at his destination.
The last thing any of the grateful passengers would consider is Hazziez's religious faith. He is a Muslim.
Like many American Muslims, Hazziez says he’s aware of the negative perceptions and prejudices of some in the post-9/11 world. But he also says what he did that day was in keeping with the teachings of Islam.
"We are supposed to help those in need and protect and help those who can't help themselves," he said.
As a result of his heroics, the Midland Islamic Council praised Hazziez for enhancing the image of American Muslims and helping to "affirm the many valuable and useful contributions they make to our nation." Hazziez was also honored in the form of a resolution from the Kansas City Council and Mayor Sly James honoring Hazziez for his actions.
As is almost always the case with real heroes, Hazziez says he did what anyone else would have done in the same situation and that all this “hero” stuff is a little over the top.
"I have a hard time calling myself a hero," he said. "I just reacted to the situation."
But Aasim Baheyadeen, who has known Hazziez for 35 years told reporters that when he heard what his friend had done he wasn’t at all surprised.
"Yeah, that sounded like him," Baheyadeen said. "He's a person who is held in great esteem."
Ditto says Kansas City Fire Chief Smokey Dyer. A 10-year department veteran, Hazziez is hazardous-materials specialist trained to handle some of the most dangerous and technically challenging incidents. It is the kind of job that requires quick thinking and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
"He is an outstanding firefighter," Dyer said.
"It was very characteristic of the performance we see on a weekly and monthly basis."
The same goes for Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, who described Hazziez as a good deputy and a good guy.
"He stepped up to the plate and took control of the situation," Sharp said.
But no one is more proud of Hazziez than his family. "We have joked for years calling Jabir 'Mr. Safety,' " said his youngest sister, Rabiyyah Hazziez told the Star.
But the nickname is no joke to the grateful passengers that got off their flight safely.