September 2001 calendar over image of plane in sky

I. Pilon/Shutterstock

‘I don’t regret the action’: Tech exec tells heartwarming tale of employee who saved his life on 9/11—and how he fired her after

'I don’t take life for granted anymore,' Ellmore told the Daily Dot.


Katherine Huggins


Posted on Sep 13, 2023   Updated on Sep 13, 2023, 8:34 am CDT

One man’s story about how he was meant to be aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 but changed his plans at the last minute due to a recommendation from a coworker has captivated X.

“Around midnight the night before, a coworker called me urging me to change my flight to fly into San Jose instead,” former IBM executive Bill Ellmore wrote on Monday. “This meant I had to give up my 1st class seat and move to a flight that left 20 minutes later (from the same gate) with a stopover in Denver. I was very reluctant but I did it.”

He ultimately switched his flight around 1am.

The flight Ellmore was originally slated to be on was hijacked by terrorists as part of the Sept. 11 attacks. The passengers onboard retaliated—likely saving hundreds of lives—and the plane did not reach its alleged target of the U.S. Capitol, crashing instead in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Everyone onboard was killed.

“I don’t take life for granted anymore,” Ellmore told the Daily Dot via email.

He explained that he was living in New Jersey at the time and had to go out to Mountain View, California for work. Ellmore added that one employee there wasn’t working out and he “was going to announce her replacement.”

It was that employee who convinced him to change his plans. 

He said she had taken the same flight on Sept. 10 and cautioned that the commute from San Francisco to Mountain View would have made him late for a meeting in the morning.

By the time he boarded his new flight, Ellmore wrote on X, he was seven planes behind Flight 93.

“When we were 3 plans away from we taking off, the pilot told us to look out the right side of the plane because it appeared the Twin Towers had been hit by a plane,” he wrote. “I thought it might have been a small Cessna until I saw the second plane strike the other tower.”

Ellmore told the Daily Dot watching the plane fly into the other tower was “surreal.”

“I was still very focused on getting on another flight to get to my meeting,” he continued. “After watching the third plane hit the [P]entagon on tv at a bar in the airport, I realized our country was under attack and I decided to just go home to be with my family. On the ride home I was listening to the radio when I heard a fourth plane had crashed in PA but they weren’t giving details out just yet.”

He added: “Just as I pulled into my driveway behind my wife who was returning from a yoga class, they reported it was United Flight 93. I physically couldn’t get out of my car. I felt faint and my legs wouldn’t move.”

Ellmore’s account was widely shared on X, garnering nearly 10 million views and more than 90,000 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.

“she saved your life with advice, which you followed,” commented one X user. “what ever happened to your coworker?”

Ellmore replied that he “ultimately had to fire her for poor performance,” adding in a separate post that her job performance didn’t improve and he “delayed letting her go until [his] boss insisted it happen.”

That revelation sparked backlash, with some users in the replies dubbing Ellmore “not grateful enough” or “cruel.”

Ellmore told the Daily Dot that although she was his employee, he was ultimately “instructed by my Director to let her go.”

“I wasn’t transparent about it and had to tell her it was my decision,” he said. “It was the most difficult employee termination I had ever had to do.”

Ellmore though, also blamed her for nearly getting killed on that day.

“I was originally booked on flight 93 was due to her performance issues,” he wrote. “These issues didn’t improve afterwards and I delayed letting her go until my boss insisted it happen. From what I’ve been told by her, it was a wake up call that ultimately led to her excelling in her next job. I don’t regret the action.”

Ellmore says his perspective on a lot of things changed after that experience, telling the Daily Dot that he “stopped being self-centered and myopic and started noticing and appreciating the people around me, especially when traveling.”

The lessons he has taken from this experience are simple: “Life is fragile and fleeting.”

“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” he continued to tell the Daily Dot. “Get to know the people around you. When I travel abroad, I take time to immerse myself in the culture I’m visiting. Hug your children.” 

We crawl the web so you don’t have to.
Sign up for the Daily Dot newsletter to get the best and worst of the internet in your inbox every day.
Share this article
*First Published: Sep 13, 2023, 8:32 am CDT