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(Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Passenger Gives an Operator Details of the Hijacking of Her Plane

Mercy Lorenzo, an operator for telecommunications company AT&T, answers a call from Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, who provides details of the hijacking of her plane before Lorenzo connects her to her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. Barbara Olson makes the call using an Airfone on the back of one of the plane’s seats. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] She reaches Lorenzo by dialing “0.” It is unclear why she calls this number. An FBI report will later surmise that “zero may have been dialed in an attempt to contact a live AT&T operator.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/20/2001]
Barbara Olson Wants to Reach Her Husband - Barbara Olson asks to be connected to her husband and provides his telephone number. It is unclear whether she tells Lorenzo her name; Lorenzo will refer to her as a “female passenger” when she is later interviewed by the FBI. It is also unclear whether she tells Lorenzo the name of her husband or mentions his important position in the US government; in her FBI interview, Lorenzo will state that she refers to him as “a sergeant who resides in Washington, DC.”
Operator Is Told about the Hijacking of Flight 77 - Barbara Olson gives Lorenzo some details of the crisis on her plane. She says the flight is “currently being hijacked,” and the hijackers are armed with “guns and knives,” Lorenzo will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] However, when she subsequently talks to her husband, Barbara Olson will say the hijackers have knives and box cutters, but make no mention of them having guns. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Barbara Olson also says that the hijackers are “ordering the passengers to move to the back of the plane,” according to Lorenzo. She adds that the passengers want to know “how to let the pilots know what [is] happening,” since it does “not appear as if they [are] aware of the situation.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]
Call Is Connected to Ted Olson's Office - Lorenzo connects the call to Ted Olson’s office at the Department of Justice. She tells the secretary who answers it that there is “an emergency collect call.” After the secretary accepts it, the call is passed on to Ted Olson (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] A list supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77, compiled by the Department of Justice, will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers” (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission Report will determine that these include the two calls Barbara Olson makes to her husband. According to the information in the list, the call that Lorenzo deals with must occur at 9:15 a.m., 9:20 a.m., or 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455]

Entity Tags: Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Mercy Lorenzo, Barbara Olson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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