9/11 Flight Controller's Aftermath - Part 2 of 2 - Parker Waichman

Uploaded by parkerwaichman on 06.09.2012

Well our goal was to not saturate any of those airports, put many more airplanes than the
concrete could handle. The problem was you had multiple airlines from all over the world
landing airplanes at all of these airports and they’re all wanting the same piece of
concrete. So our goal at that point was to make sure we weren’t saturating those airports.
And we were landing planes in Canada, all over the United States. Yellowlife, Montana
comes to mind; where people spent a week before they could get back out of those airports.
So I was trying to handle the logistics once those airplanes are on the ground, you know,
then the passenger service people had to jump in and handle, you know, trying to take care
of places that weren’t able to accommodate thousands of people that may have landed at
those airports. The problem was trying to figure out after that happened how to restart
the airline. So we had spent many, many hours in the week afterwards trying to figure out
how to start the airline up again and do it in a way that was the most economical, most
efficient, and helpful to people. And so there were a lot of things we never dealt with at
that point. But one of the things I think the surreal nature of what had really happened
and obviously everyone in the country having been affected by it. But I think for us it
was the fact that we had to be operational people. We had to focus and concentrate what
was happening. And I don’t think I really felt the stress for many months after, when
things sort of got back to normal and I was really able to let it sink in what had happened.
Flight 93 was actually what had happened the flight attendants at the back of the airplane
had the ability at that time to call on the air phone to the ops control center if there
was an issue in the back of the airplane with a medical emergency or an unruly passenger
or something that’s broken that needs fixed on the next flight. And on that day we had
the flight attendant from flight 93 call in and the flight, actually, the call had gone
to maintenance instead of going to the ops control center as it was supposed to. I think
for me that was a very difficult breakdown, understanding why that happened and you know
the impact of that call going there had a great affect on me, in that I felt was there
something we could have done differently to help that flight. Was there some information
we could have gotten had that call gone to the right place? And as I progress, it was
something that stayed with me; was very, very powerful. I was actually deposed by the U.S.
Attorney and so I was part of the Keene Commission Report. So I had some knowledge of what was
said maybe before most people did and yeah I did hear the conversations in the cockpit,
the voice recorder, so I did have some knowledge of that. I think the finding out afterward
in finding out all the things that happened on that day it was a matter of trying to handle
the immediate – the emergencies – and do what we were supposed to do from a safety
perspective, from a legality perspective. And trying to help people as best we could.
But I think afterwards that was one of the most difficult things is understanding the
things that happened and you know where the situation broke down, where our system wasn’t
made to handle that and what could we do in the future to avoid those problems again?
I think being so closely involved in 9/11, the things that happened that day, I think
my goal afterwards was to try and help the people that were most affected by it. And
in fact, Ed Ballinger, the dispatcher that was handling flight 93 and 175 and 102 (with
actually he is credited largely with stopping that flight from leaving the ground and there
were 6 terrorists on that airplane as well). I focus so much I think with helping other
people, I didn’t realize for a long time how it affected me and it was a number of
months later that I started noticing some changes. And I think more so probably my wife
did at that point, but we didn’t really know what was happening. I started of not
enjoying the things I used to enjoy, not getting out as much, and actually the biggest thing
was not getting along with the people that I reported to – the senior management of
the company. I started saying things that were uncharacteristic and not understanding
why. And eventually I ended up leaving in 2003 with acute anxiety, which is what I was
diagnosed with. I did try and go back. I stepped down from my leadership position and I did
try and go back to a dispatch position. Actually work the desk, I thought maybe that would
help the stress of the management job was affecting me. But I wasn’t able to do that.
I actually was never able to go back and get retrained for that job due to anxiety. At
that point, pretty much life went downhill. We ended up, I made a lot of bad financial
decisions – ended up losing everything that we had. I was on disability for 2 years and
there really was no one that could help me because I was diagnosed with acute anxiety
and they didn’t know what was causing it. It wasn’t until May of 2010 that I was diagnosed
with acute – actually, latent onset post-traumatic stress disorder – because of 9/11. It was
that point, it actually took me quite awhile to accept that fact and it wasn’t until
I did that I was able to start working through the issues.