Rick Ducharme doesn’t talk much about Sept. 11, 2001. He lived too much of it.
The Auburn native is second in command at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Organization, overseeing 16,500 air traffic controllers on 400 airstrips. Ten years ago, he was a deputy division manager in Jamaica, N.Y.
“I’m the one who got the call that we had the first potential hijacking out of Boston,” Ducharme, 54, said, speaking from his new office in Washington, D.C. “I was in charge that morning and all four airplanes actually went down within my area of control.
“It’s one of those real ...” He paused. “I did what I did because I had to. The politicians asked me (afterward) when I (had gone) to the contingency plan. It was kind of silly — there really was no contingency plan for somebody taking a 757 and driving it into the World Trade Center.”
As for the rest, he demurred. He’d rather let others speak to his actions that day. According to the FAA, Ducharme was tapped to organize the Eastern region’s air traffic response to the terrorist attacks, and he continued up FAA ranks after that, suggesting he was someone who ably handled leadership under pressure.
“I’ve had a very charmed career,” Ducharme said. “I even look at 9/11 as a blessing. That was an experience, although I wish it had never happened, you learn an awful lot about people, an awful lot about yourself, when you’re under the gun like that.”