In Your Own Words - I&A Sharepoint Coordinator Pat LeDonne

Wednesday, September 8, 2021
LeDonne banner

As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11, TSA would like to rekindle that national unity and remind the next generation about why we serve. We asked TSA employees to submit a personal essay on how 9/11 impacted them, and how that has translated to their service to country and commitment to the TSA mission.  You can view all essay submissions by visiting the TSA 9/11 iShare site from a TSA computer.

It was a picture perfect day: blue sky, no clouds, slight breeze, and in the mid-70s. It was just what you needed for a successful operational training day at DCA. The rollout out our first ticketless travel class for the shuttle operation was in its final stages.

I was setting up the training class and refreshments when a warning announcement for managers came from Ops: a small aircraft appears to have hit the World Trade Center in NYC. USAir managers reported to Ops, and as we entered the room, we could see a second aircraft hit the second tower and DCA FAA Towers announced an aircraft en route to DCA. Everyone scrambled into emergency mode.  USAir made an operational decision to shut down DCA operations and evacuate all passengers and employees outside of the airport. 

Managers were assigned to aircrafts (A/C) to perform A/C searches and lock ups. After completing A/C searches, we had three A/Cs identified with potential weapons under the first class sections, and scheduled for long hauls, which would make the A/Cs potential weapons of mass destruction. Since DCA fuel cost was lower, max fuel was on all three flights. My flight was a DCA/PIT/LAX with max fuel and box cutters under two first class seats. While A/C searches were taking place, upstairs other managers were evacuating passengers and employees, because an A/C was still coming to DCA, but no one knew which target the A/C was coming for. DCA was right in the middle of many potential Washington, D.C. area targets.

Once we completed all A/C searches and evacuated operational areas assigned to USAir, we were sent home to wait for a call from management. It took me 7 hours to get home from DCA, when the 36 miles should only take 45 minutes. My car phone didn’t work, so my family had no idea if I was on one of the planes. Prior to this day, I would often hop on a flight to LGA daily for meetings about ticketless travel and then return to DCA in the same day. By the time I reached my house, my family was in a panic and very glad to see me alive. I made a promise to myself then, never to let anything like this happen again on my watch. 

Under the Department of Transportation, the FAA asked me to come work for them as an inspector. I was very grateful to support this mission and help protect our nation’s aviation industry. Knowing the security areas outlined in Aviation Security Directives and training airline personnel on these process, I knew too well what areas needed support for securing the aviation operations. On-time performance had always come first with the airlines not security. 

I knew in my heart standing up TSA would make a tremendous deterrent in fighting terrorism against the United States of America.

SharePoint Coordinator Pat LeDonne