Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Attack was too close for comfort

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Delta Air Lines chairman and chief executive officer Leo Mullin watched Tuesday's events with as much horror as the rest of the country — with an added twist.

        He and his executive staff, assembled for their weekly staff meeting at corporate headquarters in Atlanta — which overlooks the busiest airport in the country — initially had no idea whether any of Delta's planes were involved.

        And Mr. Mullin's wife, Leah, was in the air at the time, headed to Wall Street from Atlanta for a morning meeting.

        Whose plane was it?

“We all just sat there and watched just like everyone after the first plane hit,” Mr. Mullin said. “And then lo and behold, the second one hit, and you could tell it was a passenger plane. Someone who is a pilot on the staff said that it was a 767, but we had no knowledge about whose plane it was. At that point, it all hit us as to what was going on.”

        After about five minutes, when the impact of what had happened sunk in, the executive staff moved to an emergency control center set up in the same building in the case of a crash or other emergency.

        “I never said anything, but I was thinking about my wife the entire time,” Mr. Mullin said.

        “The time that the second plane hit was about the same time she would have been landing. As we were tracking our planes, my secretary was trying to find Leah, because she read my mind.”

        Safe on the ground

About 30 minutes later, Mr. Mullin got a note saying his wife's flight was accounted for, having been diverted to Allentown, Pa. And soon after that, all of Delta's planes were found.

        “I had about 20 seconds to think about the safety of my wife and our workers, and then we had to get to work,” Mr. Mullin said.


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