Recordings of 911 calls to Naperville police show how frantic family members and a friend reached out to authorities over concern for the man charged with setting the fire at the Aurora Federal Aviation Authority facility Sept. 26 that caused headaches for air travelers.
Relatives revealed that FAA contractor Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, had a history of sleep problems and was taking two antidepressants, according recordings obtained by Sun-Times Media. The family was planning a big going away party for Howard on Saturday prior to his planned Tuesday departure, but that Howard kept putting them off.
Howard, himself, left a message on Facebook before setting the fire, authorities say.
“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I am about to take out ZAU and my life,” authorities said Howard wrote on Facebook, using the three-letter call number for the Aurora facility. He then wrote, “love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on quickly from me please.”
That rambling Facebook post prompted scared loved ones enough to call authorities.
Naperville police released parts of four 911 calls either received by them or routed to their attention. The calls were made by Howard’s stepsister, brother-in-law, a female friend and a sister who lives in Gary and shows that family members knew he had emotional issues.
“He was in the service, he was in for six years, he held a job the entire time but just traveled because he kinda has never been happy whereever he’s gone,” his sister told the Naperville dispatcher.
She said she did not think he was ever diagnosed with depression or has attempted to harm himself in the past but later revealed that he takes sleeping pills, has a sleep machine and “he’s on two different anti-depressants.”
She also said that there was supposed to be a going away party for him the next day.
His stepsister, who lives in Bolingbrook, called police from her car as she was speeding to Howard’s Naperville apartment.
“I’m driving a little fast right now because I need to get to the apartment.” She was told that police were on the phone with his sister in Indiana and to meet officers at the apartment.
The friend told police that the Facebook post mentioned “the outage he was about to take might knock down communication and something with air delays.”
She also said she did not think he was home because “he’s in computers for work so I don’t know if he would have the ability to do something…”
Meanwhile, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta led three members of Congress on a private tour of the damaged basement control room where authorities say Howard doused electronic equipment with gasoline and then severed numerous cables before trying to slit his own throat.
Huerta, reporting that O’Hare International Airport was running 86 percent of scheduled flights on Friday and Midway was at about 90 percent, said efforts are on track to meet the Oct. 13 target date for full restoration of flight service.
“It has been a heroic effort,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who viewed the damage with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville.