!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Profile: Helen Voss

Helen Voss was a participant or observer in the following events:

Barbara Olson.Barbara Olson. [Source: Richard Eillis / Getty Images]Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, talks over the phone with her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, and gives details of the hijacking of her plane, but the call is cut off after about a minute. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] Sometime later, Barbara Olson tries calling her husband from the plane. The call initially reaches Mercy Lorenzo, an operator for AT&T, and after a short conversation, Lorenzo connects her to Ted Olson’s office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]
Secretary Answers the Call - There, the call is answered by Lori Keyton, a secretary. Lorenzo says there is an emergency collect call from Barbara Olson for Ted Olson. Keyton says she will accept it. Barbara Olson is then put through. She starts asking, “Can you tell Ted…” but Keyton cuts her off and says, “I’ll put him on the line.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Keyton then notifies Helen Voss, Ted Olson’s special assistant, about the call. She says Barbara Olson is on the line and in a panic. The call is then passed on to Ted Olson. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Voss rushes up to him and says, “Barbara is on the phone.” Ted Olson has been watching the coverage of the crashes at the World Trade Center on television and was concerned that his wife might have been on one of the planes involved. He is therefore initially relieved at this news. However, when he gets on the phone with her, he learns about the crisis on Flight 77. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Newsweek, 9/28/2001; Hudson Union, 6/18/2014]
Barbara Olson Provides Details of the Hijacking - Barbara Olson tells her husband that her plane has been hijacked. She gives no information describing the hijackers. She says they were armed with knives and box cutters, but makes no mention of any of the crew members or passengers being stabbed or slashed by them. She says they moved all the passengers to the back of the plane and are unaware that she is making a phone call. After the couple have been talking for about a minute, the call is cut off. Ted Olson will then try to call Attorney General John Ashcroft on a direct line he has to Ashcroft but receive no answer. After that, he will call the Department of Justice command center and ask for someone there to come to his office (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Barbara Olson will reach her husband again and provide more details about the hijacking a short time later (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Newsweek, 9/28/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
Barbara Olson Is 'Incredibly Calm' - Accounts will later conflict over how composed Barbara Olson sounds during the call. She “did not seem panicked,” according to Ted Olson. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] “She sounded very, very calm… in retrospect, enormously, remarkably, incredibly calm,” he will say. [CNN, 9/14/2001] But Keyton will say that when she answered the call, Barbara Olson “sounded hysterical.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Ted Olson will add that he did not hear any noises on the plane other than his wife’s voice. [CNN, 9/14/2001]
Accounts Will Conflict over What Kind of Phone Is Used - Accounts will also be contradictory over whether Barbara Olson’s call is made using a cell phone or an Airfone. Keyton will say there is no caller identification feature on her phone and so she was unable to determine what kind of phone Barbara Olson used. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Ted Olson will tell the FBI that he “doesn’t know if the calls [from his wife] were made from her cell phone or [an Airfone].” He will mention, though, that she “always has her cell phone with her.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] He will similarly tell Fox News that he is unsure whether his wife used her cell phone or an Airfone. He will say he initially assumed the call must have been made on an Airfone and she called collect because “she somehow didn’t have access to her credit cards.” [Fox News, 9/14/2001] But he will tell CNN that she “called him twice on a cell phone.” [CNN, 9/12/2001] And in a public appearance in 2014, he will imply that she called him on her cell phone, saying, “I don’t know how Barbara managed to make her cell phone work” while she was in the air. [Hudson Union, 6/18/2014] Furthermore, a spokesman for Ted Olson will say that during the call, Barbara Olson said she was locked in the toilet. If correct, this would mean she must be using her cell phone. [Daily Mail, 9/12/2001; Evening Standard, 9/12/2001] But in 2002, Ted Olson will tell the London Telegraph that his wife called him on an Airfone and add, “I guess she didn’t have her purse, because she was calling collect.” [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002] And based on a study of all Airfone records, an examination of the cell phone records of all of the passengers who owned cell phones, and interviews with the people who received calls from the plane, the Department of Justice will determine that all of the calls from Flight 77 were made using Airfones.
Call Will Be Listed as Being Made to an 'Unknown' Number - A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 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 made by Barbara Olson to her husband. According to the information in the list, her first call must occur at 9:15 a.m., 9:20 a.m., or 9:25 a.m. However, the FBI and the Department of Justice will conclude that all four “connected calls to unknown numbers” were communications between Barbara Olson and her husband’s office. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455]
Barbara Olson Originally Planned to Fly Out a Day Earlier - Barbara Olson is a former federal prosecutor who is now a well-known political commentator on television. [Independent, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001] She was flying to Los Angeles to attend a major media business conference and to appear on Bill Maher’s television show, Politically Incorrect, this evening. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Hudson Union, 6/18/2014] She was originally scheduled to be on Flight 77 on September 10, but delayed her departure because today is Ted Olson’s birthday, and she wanted to be with him on the night before and have breakfast with him this morning. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Scotsman, 9/13/2001; Hudson Union, 6/18/2014] At around 9:00 a.m., Keyton received a series of about six to eight collect calls from an unknown caller that failed to go through (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presumably these were made by Barbara Olson. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 94] In an interview with the FBI on September 13, Ted Olson will mention some messages on his voicemail at his old law firm. Presumably, he will be suggesting that these were also from Barbara Olson (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Barbara Olson, Helen Voss, Mercy Lorenzo, Lori Lynn Keyton, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ted Olson.
Ted Olson. [Source: US Department of Justice]Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, calls the Department of Justice command center to pass on information he has received in a call from his wife, who is a passenger on Flight 77, and ask for someone there to come to his office. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32, 95] His wife, Barbara Olson, has just called him, and was able to say her plane had been hijacked and give him details of the hijacking before the call got cut off (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Olson Is Unable to Reach Attorney General Ashcroft - After the call from his wife has ended, Ted Olson tries to call Attorney General John Ashcroft on a direct line he has to Ashcroft, but receives no answer. He then calls the Department of Justice command center to pass on the details of his wife’s call. He contacts the command center, he will later say, because he wants to give Barbara Olson’s information “to someone who could possibly do something.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Newsweek, 9/28/2001] “I mainly wanted them know there was another hijacked plane out there,” he will comment. [Fox News, 9/14/2001]
Olson Is Told Command Center Personnel Are Unaware of the Hijacking - He tells the person who answers the call that his wife’s plane has been hijacked and gives them the number of the flight. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] “I want you to know there’s another plane that’s been hijacked; my wife is on it,” he says. [Newsweek, 9/28/2001] He adds that his wife is able to communicate from the plane, even though her call to him got cut off. [CNN, 9/14/2001] “They just absorbed the information,” he will recall, adding, “I expected them to pass the information on to the appropriate people.” [Fox News, 9/14/2001] He is told that officials in the command center know nothing about the hijacking of Flight 77. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001]
Olson Wants a Security Officer to Come to His Office - Ted Olson also requests that a security officer from the command center come to his office. According to Helen Voss, his special assistant, he does this because he thinks the security officer will be able to talk to Barbara Olson if she calls him again. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] But Ted Olson will comment that at this time, “I didn’t know that I was going to get another call [from Barbara Olson].” He is told someone will be sent to his office right away. [Fox News, 9/14/2001] Shortly after he contacts the command center, Barbara Olson will call him a second time and provide more details about the hijacking of Flight 77 (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
Security Officer Goes to Olson's Office - Meanwhile, Allen Ferber, a security officer in the command center, is told to go to Ted Olson’s office. He is told by the watch officer that the solicitor general’s wife is on a plane that has been hijacked, the hijackers were armed with knives, and the passengers have been moved to the back of the plane. He will arrive at Ted Olson’s office after Barbara Olson’s second call from Flight 77 has ended. He will stay there, watching the television coverage of the crashes at the World Trade Center with Ted Olson, for about 10 minutes. He will leave the office before the attack on the Pentagon is reported on television (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001) but return to it after the attack starts being reported (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Allen Ferber, John Ashcroft, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Helen Voss

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, immediately thinks Flight 77, which his wife was a passenger on, has crashed when he sees reports on television about an explosion at the Pentagon. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Fox News, 9/14/2001; Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002] Ted Olson was called by his wife, Barbara Olson, at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, sometime after the second hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center. She told him her plane had been hijacked and gave him details of the hijacking before the call got disconnected (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She called again a short time later and gave him additional details of the hijacking, but that call also got cut off (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then returned to watching the coverage of the crashes at the WTC on television and, after a short time, sees the reports indicating some kind of explosion has occurred at the Pentagon (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ted Olson will later recall that, even though it is some time before reports suggest that the incident involved a plane crashing at the Pentagon (see 9:43 a.m.-9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001), he immediately knows Flight 77, his wife’s plane, has crashed. [CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] “I knew it was her,” he will comment. [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002] “I did and I didn’t want to, but I knew.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] “I knew in my heart that was that aircraft and I also knew in my heart that [Barbara Olson] could not possibly have survived that kind of an explosion with a full load of fuel on a recently taken-off airplane,” he will say. [Fox News, 9/14/2001] Ted Olson shares his thoughts with some of his colleagues. Helen Voss, his special assistant, watched television with him after the second call from his wife ended. She will recall that when the incident at the Pentagon starts being reported, he says, “That’s Barbara’s plane.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] And Allen Ferber, a security officer from the Department of Justice command center, sat and watched television with the solicitor general for about 10 minutes after he received the second call from his wife (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ferber then left Ted Olson’s office but he returns to it after the incident at the Pentagon is reported. He will recall that, apparently referring to Flight 77, Ted Olson says to him, “The plane is down.” Ferber says he is very sorry and then leaves the office again. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Ted Olson will stay in his office for the next few hours, phoning friends and family members to let them know his wife is dead. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Helen Voss, Barbara Olson, Allen Ferber

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike