The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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Profile: Phyllis Johnson

Phyllis Johnson was a participant or observer in the following events:

Lisa Jefferson.Lisa Jefferson. [Source: Lisa Jefferson]Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer reaches a GTE operator using one of the plane’s seatback phones. He had tried using his credit card on the phone, but been unable to get authorization, so his call is routed to a customer service center in the Chicago area. (Breslau 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 198-199; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 11 pdf file) Beamer initially reaches operator Phyllis Johnson, who calls customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson over and informs her of the call. As Jefferson later recalls, “I asked [Johnson] information that I needed to report to our surveillance center. And by the time I came back, she appeared to be traumatized, and that’s when I told her I would take the call over… She was just dazed.” Having immediately contacted the FBI, airline security, and GTE operations personnel, Jefferson gets on the line and speaks to Beamer for the next 13 minutes (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (McKinnon 9/22/2001; Smith 9/5/2002; Jefferson 2006) She later informs Beamer’s wife Lisa, “[I]t was a miracle that Todd’s call hadn’t been disconnected. Because of the enormous number of calls that day, the GTE systems overloaded and lines were being disconnected all around her… She kept thinking, This call is going to get dropped! Yet Todd stayed connected… all the way to the end.” (Beamer and Abraham 2002, pp. 217) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “GTE-Verizon [does] not routinely tape its telephone calls. As a supervisor, [Jefferson] would have been the one to monitor the taping, but she did not want to risk losing the call.” (Longman 2002, pp. 199) Yet an early article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will claim that, “because it was to an operator,” Beamer’s call “was tape-recorded.” (McKinnon 9/19/2001) Lisa Beamer will only be informed of her husband’s call from Flight 93 three days later, and be read a summary of it written by Jefferson (see September 14, 2001). (Breslau, Clift, and Thomas 12/3/2001)


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