Seeing the smoke, the passenger and others around them immediately moved away from the bag, knocking over line dividers and dropping luggage in a panic.
Ricardo Perez, a 20-year veteran of the Army before joining the TSA, placed the bag "between a concrete column and a concrete planter to mitigate any harm that might come with a full explosion", according to a TSA statement commending the agent for his actions and the passengers for their quick reactions "given the current threat environment".
A video showed people evacuating trams at the airport. He told the news outlet that he was not sure at first what was inside, but thought it could be an "improvised-explosive device". He did this while hundreds of passengers panicked and knocked over the one ropes and dropped roller bags, creating loud banging sounds which were perceived as gun shots, further spreading panic throughout the airport.
"As a result of the incident, a ground stop was issued and a number of flights were held while passengers were allowed back into the building and security checkpoints reactivated", the statement said.
More than 100 flights were affected as agents performed a security sweep of the airport.
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown said it was next to impossible for a few workers to get the message out to the masses that the incident was a non-emergency.
While it was a minor incident, it still caused hours of delays and chaos.
"Our TSA Team's performance was outstanding".
Perez said he joined the TSA, an agency within the US Department of Homeland Security, after the September 11 attacks. "I am especially proud of our Officer who unselfishly rushed to a potentially deadly situation in order to protect lives".