Below is an excerpt from a CNN story detailing an interview between Larry King and Theodore Olson regarding Barbara’s phone call.
Olson was one of the passengers on American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. But before she died inside the doomed airplane, Olson kept her cool and made two telephone calls to her husband. "She wasn’t crying, she didn’t even sound frightened. She told me her plane was hijacked and that they didn’t know she was making a phone call," Ted Olson told CNN’s Larry King. Barbara Olson’s last words to her husband, he said, were "What do I tell the pilot to do?" (cnn)
Below is excerpted from a detailed timeline developed at cooperativeresearch.org; this section details the communications.
(9:25 a.m.) A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is Solicitor General at the Justice Department. Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching WTC news on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he says, "She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] She feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/01] He doesn’t know if she was near the pilots, but at one point she asks, "What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?" [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Then she gets cut off without warning. [Newsweek, 9/29/01] Ted Olson’ recollection of the call’s timing is extremely vague, saying it "must have been 9:15 or 9:30. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Other accounts place it around 9:25. [About 9:25, Miami Herald, 9/14/01, about 9:25, New York Times, 9/15/01 (C), "by 9:25," Washington Post, 9/21/01] The call is said to have lasted about a minute. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] By some accounts, his warning of that planes have hit the WTC comes later in a second phone call (see (After 9:30 a.m.)). [Washington Post, 9/21/01] In one account, Barbara Olson calls from inside a bathroom. [Evening Standard, 9/12/01] In another account, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Ted Olson’s account of how the call is made is also strange and conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he says, "I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you’re calling collect." He says he doesn’t know what kind of phone she used, but he has "assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn’t have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me." [Fox News, 9/14/01] But in another interview on the same day, he says that she used a cell phone and that she may have gotten cut off "because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don’t work that well." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Six months later, he claims she called collect "using the phone in the passengers’ seats." [Telegraph, 3/5/02] But it isn’t possible to call on seatback phones without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details are conflicting, and Olson faults his memory and says that he "tends to mix the two [calls] up because of the emotion of the events." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] The couple liked to joke that they were at the heart of what Hillary Clinton famously called a "vast, right-wing conspiracy." Ted Olson was a controversial choice as Solicitor General, since he argued on behalf of Bush before the Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election controversy before being chosen. Barbara Olson was known for her extremely partisan attacks on President Clinton. For instance, a few weeks before 9/11 she had called Clinton’s mother a "barfly" who let herself be used by men. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] Some have questioned if Ted Olson can be trusted in his account of the call, since he has stated that lying to the public is justifiable. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/20/02] Between his memory and his approval of lying for partisan ends, can Ted Olson’s account be trusted? This is the only call from Flight 77, and the only call to mention box cutters. (cooperative research)