'I want you to know that I love you in case I don't see you again'

by Harriet Arkell and Anthony France
The Evening Standard (London)
September 12, 2001


Terrified passengers and crew on board the hijacked planes used their mobile phones to make desperate calls for help, it emerged today.

As armed hijackers moved through the planes stabbing airline crew to force them to co-operate, people locked themselves into lavatories to ring relations and emergency services.

On the American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington, television reporter Barbara Olson, 46, locked herself in the lavatory to call her husband, Solicitor General Theodore Olson.

Seconds after she spoke to him for the second time, her plane crashed into the Pentagon, reportedly killing all 60 people on board. Her distraught husband, a friend of President Bush who fought for him during the legal battle over the disputed presidential election, said: "She called from the plane while it was being hijacked. I wish it wasn't so but it is."

A spokesman for the family said Mrs Olson, a mother and grandmother, only decided to take the flight at the last minute, to join her husband for his birthday.

He said: "She called and said she was locked in the toilet and the plane had been hijacked. She said they had box-cutters and knives. They had rounded up the passengers at the back of the plane. She referred to them as more than one. There was nothing she could do. She said to her husband 'What shall I tell the pilot to do?' "Mrs Olson was not even supposed to be on that flight.

She flew a day early to make sure she could be at Ted's birthday."

Mrs Olson, a prominent figure in American media circles, was a frequent guest on television shows discussing the Clinton administration. More recently she spoke on television about the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Her close friend Barbara Ledeen said: "Barbara was one of the dearest, most loyal people. Sunny, witty and wonderful, she was a brilliant wife and friend."

Mrs Olson's plane crashed into the Pentagon at 9.43am local time, causing an explosion which destroyed six storeys of the military command centre.

On board the second jet that hit the World Trade Center, a flight attendant managed to call an emergency number from the back of the plane.

An American Airlines source said the stewardess told how her colleagues had been stabbed by hijackers, the cabin had been taken over and the plane was going down in New York.

Another desperate call came from the United Airlines plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Alice Hogland, from San Francisco, told television channel KTVU-TV how her son Mark Bingham, 31, telephoned her from United Airlines Flight 93 on his mobile phone.

His mother, Alice Hoglan, broke down as she told CNN: "He said 'We've been taken over.

There are three men that say they have a bomb'.

"He said 'I want you to know that I love you very much, in case I don't see you again'."

"He went on 'I'm in the air. I'm calling on the air phone of the airplane.

We've been taken over.

There are three men that say they've got a bomb.' "He repeated that he loved me. Then he became distracted, as if someone was speaking to him. He said something to the effect that it was true. "Then the phone went dead."

Another report told how a passenger from the same flight rang emergency workers from his mobile.

He said he was locked in the plane's lavatory, the plane was being hijacked and it was going down.

Emergency worker Glenn Cramer, who took the call, said he cried "we are being hijacked, we are being hijacked." As he spoke, there was an explosion and the call ended.

The Boeing 757, from Newark, New Jersey, then crashed in grassy field near Pittsburgh, killing all 38 passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants on board.

American businessman Peter Hanson made desperate calls to his father in Connecticut as his United Airlines flight from Boston was taken over.

The local minister in Connecticut, Bonnie Bardot, said Mr Hanson, who was flying with his wife and young child, called his father Lee Hanson twice before the jetliner smashed into the World Trade Center.

She said: "He called to his parents' home and so in that way, they were together in that moment."

Lorne Lyles, a Florida police officer, was at home when his wife, flight attendant CeeCee Lyles, called him on her mobile phone.

"She called him and let him know how much she loved him and the boys," said her aunt, Mareya Schneider.

She said Mrs Lyles was crying and her husband could hear people screaming in the background. Then she said "we've been hijacked" and the phone went dead.

Copyright 2001 Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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