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'Not A Charity': Ex-IBM Exec. Has No Regrets Firing Employee Who Saved His Life On 9/11

Bill Ellmore's story of narrowly avoiding being on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, went viral—but took a turn after people called out his cold-hearted move to fire his employee.

Bill Ellmore
Billy Ellmore/Facebook

Former IBM executive Bill Ellmore was criticized after he shared a story about an employee who saved his life ahead of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001—and revealed he later fired her.

Ellmore narrowly escaped boarding United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back against terrorists who had initially planned to crash the plane into a federal government building in Washington, D.C.

But he stirred controversy by defending his decision to fire the employee weeks after the tragic terror attack. In an interview with the New York Post, he said IBM is "not a charity" and emphasized that the company's principles are grounded in "performance and results."

The backlash started shortly after Ellmore shared a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, in which he recalled having 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" after his former employee urged him to change flights and fly to San Jose instead of San Francisco.

He added:

"When I got to the airport, I watched people boarding flight 93 and I was upset that I was not leaving earlier, in my 1st class seat on a direct flight. I didn’t notice or care about the people as they were boarding, only myself."
"When I finally boarded my plane, we were 7 planes behind flight 93. When we were 3 plans [sic] 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. I thought it might have been a small Cessna until I saw the second plane strike the other tower."

Ellmore said his actions "changed" after the terror attacks and that he now takes "every opportunity" to get to know his fellow passengers whenever he flies "to give up my seat for a later flight if requested."

You can see his post below.

Interestingly, the worker who advised Ellmore to change his flight didn't realize that he was flying to California to dismiss her from his team due to "poor performance." Ellmore ultimately fired her about a month after the attacks and said the decision was a "difficult" one.

You can see his post below.

Ellmore told the Post that the decision to fire the employee was justified because she "didn’t achieve the level of performance she needed to sustain."

He added:

“She wasn’t meeting contract obligations and there were problems with customer satisfaction. She was given very specific requirements on how to improve, and she wasn’t able to do that.”

He told the newspaper that while he knew his actions would anger social media users, he nonetheless shared his story because “my personal actions changed after that day.”

Ellmore's story did indeed anger people on X who called him out for his cold-hearted move after his employee had saved his life.

Ellmore late said that he would not "publicly humiliate" his former employee by naming her but he claimed he "was originally booked on Flight 93 because of her performancee issues."

He said the employee's firing served as a "wake up call that ultimately led to her excelling in her next job" and that he does not "regret the action."

You can see his post below.

Ellmore told the Post he and his former colleague have "no animosity" between them and that at this point "she’s retired happily living her retirement life."

He insisted his post "wasn’t about her being fired, it was about remembering 9/11" and how that day changed his "myopic" views on life.

His colleague has not been identified—but one wonders if she has a different opinion on the matter.