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Sept. 11: One year after

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  State Troopers Jake Vitale and Kathy Sampson patrol Terminal C on September 15, the day that airline travel resumed in Boston. (Globe Staff Photo / John Bohn)

My side of the story |   Continued

enior officials from Massport gathered at the emergency operations center just set up at Logan's fire station. The center, intended to deal with aircraft disasters, was staffed by more than 30 federal, state, and local agency personnel, each manning a phone in a large, modern auditorium. In the front of the room, one screen broadcast the national news, and another bore updated information relayed by each agency involved in the emergency response. Yearly practice drills had prepared us for a plane crash on a Logan runway. But four different planes, hijacked from three airports at almost the same time, was beyond anyone's worst imaginings. The atmosphere was orderly, if tense, as staffers took their posts, professional training overcoming the shock and disbelief that could be read on every face.

I took over a conference room above the auditorium and gathered key aviation and security staff. We went through a checklist. A team of 50 Massport employees - from secretaries to engineers - trained to aid victims' families had been deployed to the Logan Hilton hotel, where victims' families were starting to gather. The State Police were securing the terminals and any aircraft on the ground. Massport's conference center in South Boston was opened to stranded travelers. In an incredible show of generosity, many families in East Boston, the neighborhood in Logan's backyard and the most at odds with the airport over the years, opened their homes to total strangers with nowhere else to go.

For the first time in decades, all was quiet overhead. The airport, normally moving 75,000 passengers through its doors each day and 1,400 flights off its runways, was unnaturally still. We waited for guidance from Washington as media outlets and federal investigators descended on Boston.

We established a media center at the Hyatt Harborside at Logan and held two briefings that first day. Massport public safety director Joseph Lawless was bombarded with shouted questions. Because little was known about how the hijackers had gained access to the planes, Lawless was forced again and again to cite the ongoing investigation. Neither the FBI nor the FAA had made itself available to the media, so Lawless bore the brunt of pointed questioning that would have been better directed at federal officials.

Later that evening, I joined Lawless and Massport aviation director Thomas Kinton at the podium. Row upon row of reporters, pens poised over their notebooks, literally on the edge of their seats, waited for answers. We had none. I made a statement about the horror Massport felt at what had happened and how our efforts were focused on aiding the investigation. I was exhausted and emotionally drained, stunned by the enormity of what had happened. In politics, perception often matters more than reality, and while I inwardly felt focused and calm, a reporter told me later that I had looked shaken and unsteady - an image that proved difficult to overcome.

I finally went home about 1 a.m. I leaned into David's arms and stood by my sleeping son's bed for a few minutes. I was too tired to speak and too tired to sleep and spent the few hours until dawn staring at the ceiling in our bedroom, mentally forming a checklist for the staff meeting I'd called for 7 a.m.

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