Reality show contestants have all sorts of day jobs – waiting tables, working in cubicles, and waiting for their big break. For “The Voice” top-10 finalist and AFGE member Damien Lawson, his job is more unexpected: he’s a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
“I started working as a TSO about 4 or five years ago,” Lawson said. “It’s a really interesting job with good people protecting travelers.”
Lawson was on duty on the morning of November 1, 2013, when an armed shooter opened fire on the airport. At first, Lawson thought it was construction noises, but soon realized that something was very wrong.
“It was an experience I never wanted to happen,” Lawson said. “I never want it to happen again, and I would never wish it on anyone.”
Lawson’s friend and partner, Gerardo Hernandez, was tragically killed in the shooting, an event that he says took him months to talk about. When Lawson was asked to sing at Hernandez’s funeral, he says he almost turned the chance down. He credits his superiors and colleagues for encouraging him to sing “I Believe I Can Fly” at the memorial service, and feels that the performance helped not only Hernandez’s family heal, but helped him heal.
“It was a hard experience,” he said. “But I feel that music can bring joy, bring peace, and bring comfort to anything you’re going through. Music has so many different layers, and at the time that I was going through all of that, it was a source of healing.”
Lawson continued to find healing in music through his involvement with the TSA chorus, which performs at TSA funerals and other events. Lawson says that he has always loved music and found happiness in singing, and was thrilled to make it onto “The Voice” this fall – something his coworkers are excited for as well.
“The TSOs here are all on board and rooting for me, it makes me feel great to have that support,” Lawson says. “I’m texting with friends and they’re always asking me when I’m singing or when they need to vote. It’s wonderful working with such a supportive team.”
Lawson says that in addition to sharing his love of music and advancing his singing career, he hopes his time on “The Voice” paints a different picture of TSOs than most Americans usually see.
“I know that the TSA doesn’t always get the best media attention, so I hope that my time on The Voice will show people a different side of our agency,” Lawson says. “The TSA has a lot of good people that protect travelers every day and make our country safer. And you don’t always see that.”
Damien Lawson is in the top 10 competitors on The Voice on “Team Adam,” led by Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine. Catch him on “The Voice” on NBC this Monday at 8/7 C, and vote for him before the results show on Tuesday at 8/7C.