Remember Alumna Barbara Olson ’78 on 9/11, Visit her Memorial Tree on Campus
On the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the University of St. Thomas-Houston invites the campus community to take a moment to remember heroine Barbara Olson ’78 who tragically died in the third hijacked plane which crashed into the Pentagon. Two other hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and a fourth in a field in Pennsylvania. At the time of her murder, Olson, 45, was at the height of her personal and professional career.
She was a conservative legal analyst, commentator, and lawyer, who was a regular guest on the Larry King Live Show, CNN and Fox News. She had also recently written a book on Hilary Clinton. Because she was a high-profile victim, news stations flashed her photo often during post-tragedy TV coverage.
Olson had changed her flight plans to be at home with her husband, Ted Olson, on the morning of 9/11 for his birthday. After the celebration, she was traveling from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to tape the Bill Maher show “Politically Incorrect.”
Ted describes Olson’s last moments when the plane was under attack; she called him in his Justice Department Office, prompting him to warn the FBI and Justice Department that terrorists hijacked her aircraft. Ted describes her demeanor as calm and brave. He later called his wife a “quintessentially American,” a person who believed in her country — a country that would allow her to achieve her dreams and ambitions.
The tragedy hit home when the UST family learned that Barbara Bracher Olson was onboard that ill-fated flight. A Houstonian who graduated from Waltrip High School, Olson earned a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies from UST in 1978.
After her death, the University dedicated a tree and plaque on the Academic Mall near the Doherty Library to memorialize her heroism. The quote on the plaque is by American writer Mary McCarthy and reads: “We are the hero of our own story.” This particular tree, tied with a ribbon during the week of the 9/11 tragedy, reminds us to take a moment, walk over to the tree and honor Barbara and all of those heroes who lost their lives in these terrorist attacks.