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My side of the story |   Continued

Distancing herself from the embattled Massport administrator, Acting Governor Jane Swift declined an invitation to visit Massport's emergency operations center. (AP Photo)

turned 36 on September 14. Celebrating seemed obscene, and in the morning I quieted my husband's whispered "happy birthday," putting my finger to his lips and saying, "Shhh. Let's talk about it next year." That day a news story suggested a personnel "shake-up" was coming at Massport, citing State House sources. It was the first of many.

The airport was scheduled to open at 5 a.m. on September 15. Before leaving to grab a few hours' sleep, Kinton, the aviation director, gathered his staff together. "Normally, when we get the airport reopened after a storm, we feel relief," he told them. "From now on, it should just make us feel sick." As his words sank in, the realization that the job of running an airport had forever changed began to sink in, too.

The first commercial flight departed Logan bound for Chicago at 6:50 a.m. A few minutes later, United Flight 168 arrived from Los Angeles. American and United airlines staff gathered together on the tarmac, many crying, and waved tiny American flags to welcome the crew and passengers home. Later that morning, another commercial pilot opened his cockpit window and let an American flag flap in the breeze as he taxied his plane to the gate. Patriotism, gritty determination, and a love of aviation would give the nation's airline personnel, newly aware of their vulnerability, the fortitude to take those first flights. I felt immense pride and awe at their personal victory over terrorism and swallowed my own gnawing sense of fear that rose in my throat each time a jet roared overhead.

Having served as the chief of staff for two governors, I had a good sense of what a governor did and did not need to know. Certainly there was no bigger public issue at that moment than security at Logan. So I was taken aback when Swift's chief of staff ordered me to stop calling the governor and instead communicate with a functionary in the Executive Office of Public Safety. I understood the benefit of filtering information but countered that I thought Logan's issues were too important to offload to a Cabinet department. Our conversation grew heated. "There's sensitive security information we're not going to be comfortable telling anyone else," I argued. He wouldn't budge but agreed I could call him if necessary. Otherwise, he said, a public safety staffer would be calling the shots.

n Saturday morning, the airport reopening having gone smoothly, I was able to spend a few hours at home. I hadn't seen Jack awake in four days, and Mommy's disappearing act wasn't sitting well. After a few hours of play, I went up to dress for work. Jack burst into tears. "Don't go, Mommy. Don't go to airport. You no save people anymore." His words brought me up short. It seemed that some well-meaning adult had explained my absence by saying I was at the airport saving people. Saving people? No, Jack, it was too late for that.

At the time, I was several weeks pregnant with my second child. Only a few close friends and my family knew. Working at the operations center until midnight almost every night and dealing with the media scrutiny, I had little time to worry about the effect on the life inside me. In the wee hours of the morning I'd read and reread my pregnancy books to assure myself I was doing no harm. I also convinced myself that I could handle it if I miscarried. After all, wasn't it a small loss compared to what so many others had suffered? It wasn't until late October, my resignation decided, that I acknowledged I didn't want to lose this baby and felt a deep need for my daughter to survive. With mine in doubt, I needed her future. With so much death, I needed her life.

Death was all around us. On September 16, airport employees organized a memorial service in the Delta hangar. Hundreds of airport employees stood side by side in the open concrete expanse, seeking comfort in one another. Kinton, Lawless, and I stayed in the back. From the moment I learned of the first crash, I had not shed one tear, and I doubt that Tom or Joe had, either. There had been no time to reflect, no time to mourn. The airport chaplain led the service, and colleagues of the murdered crew members read bits of poetry and prayers. State Trooper Dan Clark sang "God Bless America." His voice, those words, finally cracked my emotional armor. Kinton put his arm around me, tears streaming down his own face.

After the service ended, people milled about, hugging one another, the macho aviation culture displaced by sorrow. Many airline employees expressed their disbelief at the backlash. For the past four days, the Boston media had focused on Massport's political appointees and security problems at Logan. One prominent story even speculated about the political danger to Swift. "What is wrong with this city?" the airline workers said to me. "They're making the airport and all of us look like we're to blame. Don't they care that we lost our friends, too?" It struck me forcefully that I was speaking for the whole airport community, a community that had no voice. Urged by my aides to point the finger of blame at the airlines, I resisted. The blame lay with 19 dead criminals and their master, hiding thousands of miles away in the caves of Afghanistan.

My mantra to the media became: "Clearly there was a system failure. It does not appear to be unique to Logan, but the priority is finding out what happened. We'll go wherever the investigation leads us." I left out the obvious point that two other major airports - Newark International and Dulles - suffered the same systems failure. I had been chastised by Swift's press office for noting the systemwide failure publicly and for saying that Logan was as safe as any other airport. Had I said that Logan was as unsafe as any other airport, maybe the governor would have approved. It would have been closer to the truth.

We desperately wanted Washington's leaders to tell us how to protect airports from terrorism. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced two rapid response teams to make recommendations on national aviation security. The teams' members were all familiar aviation industry leaders, but they lacked an obvious qualification - counterterrorism expertise.

Frustrated, I shouted at the television in the conference room: "This is the same commission on security they would have announced if September 11th had never happened!" Jose Juves, Massport's media spokesman, summed up how we all felt: "We're on our own, guys. We're on our own."

As soon as Mineta's press conference ended, I went into a private office, next to the conference room, and closed the door. "I want to call Crandall and Barclay," I told Kinton. Robert Crandall was the former head of American Airlines' parent company. He lived in Gloucester, and while I'd only met him once, he had a reputation as a maverick, willing to buck the aviation and government establishment. Charles Barclay, the president of the American Association of Airport Executives, a national trade group, was well-respected by Congress, the FAA, and airlines alike. If there was a way to get Washington's attention, they'd know how.

Barclay cautioned me on the ability of the FAA bureaucracy to respond quickly but promised to use his position on Mineta's response team to voice airports' concerns. Crandall advised us to use the media, as he was doing, to force action through public pressure. I decided to try both approaches, ordering a list of security recommendations be sent to Barclay and seeking out national and local media opportunities to call for airport security to be taken over by the federal government.

Of course, we all knew the nation's airports and Logan had reopened with nothing much having changed. Logan had one of the first of many security breaches, at Terminal B on September 17. A screener thought she saw a knife as she scanned carry-on luggage, but by the time she attempted to stop the passenger, he or she was gone. The Terminal B concourse was emptied and the passengers rescreened, a situation that was to play out over and over at dozens of airports in the months following the hijackings. In Boston, the media reported it as one more strike against Massport's competence.

I had a telephone conference call with FAA administrator Garvey and 31 US airport directors at about the same time as the Terminal B incident. I was prepared to talk about federalizing airport security, but as the call began, touching on a few relevant security issues, it became clear that there was another agenda: sports charters. Four hijackings, nearly 3,000 people dead on American soil, and a major concern was celebrity athletes boarding privately chartered aircraft without having their belongings or person screened. I was dumbfounded. Toward the end of the call, I asked Garvey if the FAA planned to seek counsel from people who understood the kind of threat we were now facing. Her answer wasn't reassuring. She said that kind of input was being handled by the National Security Council, not the FAA. The call ended, and I said out loud: "We're on our own, guys. We're on our own."

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