On Sept. 11, Activating The 'Family Assistance Center'


Sept. 10, 2011

Betty Desrosiers is currently the director of aviation planning and strategy for Logan Airport. On September 11, 2001, she was the director of the Family Assistance Center at Logan Airport. She explains her role that day as part of our series, Sept. 11: A Day Of Reflection, A Decade Of Stories.

Betty Desrosiers is seen at the Sept. 11 memorial at Logan Airport. (Luke Boelitz for WGBH)

I was actually on September 11 out on maternity leave. I had just recently adopted a little girl from Russia, and so I was home bonding with her when I got a call a little after 9:00 a.m. saying that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers and that we thought it might be possible that that plane was from Boston. And so I immediately shifted my whole mindset from some nice little family cocoon to something very different.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the federal government required that airlines provide assistance to families in the event of an aircraft accident. And at Boston Logan, we decided to step to the plate and create our own family center in the event of an aircraft accident, because we knew that in a place like Boston, most of our passengers, over 90 percent of our passengers that use our airport are coming to or living in the Greater Boston Area. So we knew there was an accident families would be right here, indeed, they could still be on the airport.

And in the face of that, and with the knowledge that it would take an airline with headquarters elsewhere in the nation, or around the globe, that it would take them hours or even a day to mobilize to provide that service, we felt it was imperative that we step into that gap, and that we provide those services for families immediately until the airline was able to come in and provide that help themselves.

We created a plan in the late 1990s, and we activated and tested the plan for the first time in Sept. 2000, and I have to say that I'm really grateful that we did that exercise.

Frankly, it's something we think about every day throughout the day. The reality is that America is vulnerable to terrorist events, and that another terrorist event is likely to occur. That is the reality for all of us, and it's with us all day.

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