tv Garrett Graff The Only Plane in the Sky CSPAN September 12, 2021 2:55pm-4:16pm EDT
also watch for these others to appear on booktv. >> bringing you the latest in nonfiction books and authors are at running comes from these and more. including the following. >> along with the television companies, supporting this is a public service on c-span2. >> otb continues now. television for serious readers.
>> this marks the 20th anniversary of september 11 terrorist attacks. now on booktv, the historian provides a history by utilizing the classified documents and transcripts as well as over 500 interviews with those directly affected. >> many of you are aware tonight about the government positions that we are at regarding the pentagon and however tonight. and tonight making a little change. and i'd like anyone who is a first responder who is a police officer and a fireman in an emt
to please stand up and in everyday that you do for us. it is an absolute presser and pleasure, the last time he was here he spoke about the doomsday plans end of the story of a continues. tonight we are welcoming him back to discuss a very somber topic. collected and organized with the 260-degree account, the voices of the people who experienced the new experience.
that includes the regular tv commentator and historian who spent more than a dozen years in national security. also the author of a number of books including the first campaign globalization in the race to the white house to examine the role of technology including inside which traces the history of fbi counterterrorism efforts. also examining the rise across america. and today he serves as the director of the cybersecurity and technology program and has contributed to cnn. he has written from "the new york times" and has served as the editor with two of washington's most prestigious
magazines and political magazines. which should help lead to the first national magazine award in the industry's highest honor. and on this book he has said that he has used oral history to take it into one of the most horrific and consequential moments in american history in a book that it is particularly important for those that don't remember 9/11. it is the true challenge of the story to record history so that the next generation can understand these momentous event area and the number five number five on the fiction list. and it absolute pleasure to welcome garrett back museum.
[cheers] [applause] >> good evening, everyone. thank you for coming out. it is a pleasure to be back here in grand rapids. and for those of you that i spoke with last year, thank you for coming out for another night of american history and so is dole laid out, this is an oral history of 9/11. and it is told through the voices of 480 americans from coast to coast. .. september 11 until about 8:50
that morning. peter zelensky, air traffic controller, boston's international new hampshire. when american airlines flight 11 came to me, the pilot said boston center this is american 11 climbing to flight level to 30. i called him many times. american 11 how do you hear, this is boston center do you hear me? i'm calling and calling and they must be up there drinking dunkin' donuts coffee. honestly, that's what i was thinking. then there's transmissions. the first transition from the
aircraft is garbled. i don't understand it. then there was a second one, a voice. i remember him saying nobody move, please. we are going back to the airport. i will never forget that feeling at the back of my neck. it was like this adrenaline or something. i felt fear. i'm like zero my god, the planes been hijacked. airspace specialist and military specialist faa boston center. it came in about 8:25 in the morning, and as soon as i walked in the front door, someone came to me and said there was a hijacked going on. we worked hijacks in the past and they were usually uneventful. peter zelensky. i yelled at the supervisor john, get over here, the planes been hijacked! absolutely. i go it's middle eastern voices, positive. i could tell that a second time. i was used to working egypt air, saudi, turkish, all of them.
it's definitely middle eastern voices. calling the slogans, the pilot on american 11, mohammed, the lead a terrorist stated something about more planes, that they had more planes. it was definitely plural. that's when things really started to ramp up. faa command center in virginia. i was the national operations manager on 9/11. the position located in the washington area that is overarching authority over the nation's airspace. that was my charge, the safe and efficient operations of the nation's airspace. colonel bob lahr commander northeast air defense new york. there was a huddle of people around one of the scopes. i thought there's got to be something wrong. major general arnold first air force in georgia. we had a major north american
air defense exercise that morning. a command post exercise. there was a team of people who introduced scenarios you had to react to and respond to. as we were winding up the exercise, my executive officer handed me a slip of paper. it said bob tomorrow called and there was a hijacking in the boston center. my experience with hijacking ind our protocol is that we cooperate. lieutenant mission commander northeast air defense: at this point it was the 1970s vintage hijacked. we didn't have a huge concern the aircraft was going to crash. major general larry arnold: i said bob, go ahead and scramble the fighters. major joe f-15 pilot otis air force base cape cod massachusetts: a scramble order was issued. i ran to the jets and i started up and realized we didn't have any weapons. they filled the jets with gas,
and even though we were winchester -- that didn't mean we had weapons -- we took off. lieutenant colonel duffy f-15 pilot otis air force base: when we took off i left it in full afterburner the entire time. we were supersonic going down to long island, and my wing man, dan nash, called and said you are super and i said yeah i know, don't worry about it. i just wanted to get there. colonel bob mar: at mach one it would take 16 minutes to get to new york, that's 10 miles a minute. lieutenant colonel mission commander northeast air defense almost simultaneously, we brought in more surveillance technicians to look at the scopes. staff sergeant larry thorton northeast air defense: the area was so congested the hijacked flight was incredibly difficult to find. we were looking for little marks in a pile of clutter on a two
dimensional scope. master sergeant joe mccain, northeast air defense: we picked up a search track going down the hudson valley straight in from the north to new york. the plane was fast and headed in an unusual direction with no transponder. we watched the track until it faded over new york city. lieutenant general tom, commander air force base shreveport, louisiana: we were in the midst of this annual exercise called global guardian. they loaded all the bombers, but the submarines out to sea, but the icbms at nearly 100%. it was routine. we did it every year. a captain came in and said sir, we have in aircraft that hit the world trade center. i started to correct him, saying when you have in exercising but you have to start by saying i have an exercise in put that way it doesn't get confused with the real world. then he pointed me to the tv screens in the command center.
you could see smoke pouring out of the building. like everyone else in aviation that day, i said how in a clear in a million day could the plane had the world trade center. this grew out of an article that i wrote for political magazine in 2016 for the 15th anniversary of 9/11. there was an oral history of being aboard air force one with president bush, and i went out and interviewed 28 of the people who were with the president that day from the pilot of air force one to the fighter pilots who accompanied him to white house chief of staff andy carr and karl rove, the other senior aides aboard the plane, the press, security and the stenographer aboard the plane that day. he published, as i said in 2016, and i was astounded by the feedback i got the day that it
and this year in march marked the beginning of the time when the first recruits to the new york city fire department born after the attacks could apply to join the fire service. and so my goal with turning thit shares the same title the only plane in the sky referring to the end of 9/11 when president bush left the air force base outside of omaha nebraska and flew back to washington at about 4:15 that afternoon after all of the commercial planes in the country had who are
old enough to remember these experiences this story of 9/11 is actually pretty different than the story that we tell in our history books we tell this neat and clean history of that day. the attacks started at 846 with the crash of american 11 into the north tower and ended at 10:29 with a collapse of the second tower, 102 minutes later. but if you remember 9/11, that is in the day that you remember, and that's not the story that
any of us lived that day. we didn't know when the attacks began. we didn't know when the attacks were over. it is the true story of 9/11. because when we try to hand this set of memories off to a new generation, to the quarter of the american population that no longer has any memory of 9/11, a quarter of the country now does not have a memory of 9/11. the facts of the day don't account for what the country did after 9/11. and when you look at the world that we created the way that it shaped our geopolitics internationally and our domestic
politics. you can't explain the world that we are handing off to a future generation. because the decisions the country made. they were not driven by the history of 9/11. they were driven by the emotions of 9/11. they were driven by that fear and trauma and chaos and confusion so this book is an attempt to capture that sweep of the day not as we understood 9/11 later but as we understood while it unfolded. so to compile the book is a mix of original interviews that i did, and then archived oral
histories done by institutions like the 9/11 museum in new york, 9/11 tribute center, the e pentagon historian, capitol hill historian, the arlington county public libraries, the flight 93 national memorial park service compiled in shanksville. and i found with a researcher who worked with me on this book, we found about 5,000 of those original oral histories archived around the country and ultimately boiled it down to about 2,000 that i spent a year working with you end up telling the story that i tell in this book. there are some big observations that sort of grow out of looking at 9/11 on a national level like that that i want to spend some time talking about tonight.
the first is just how different our country was on the morning of september 11. that we sort of now say flippantly and in passing, 9/11 changed everything. but we forget just how much actually 9/11 changed. and to capture that, we have to actually look at what to me is the most fascinating moment of 9/11, which is the 17 minutes between the first crash and the second crash. eighth:46 in the morning to 9:03. and what unfolds during those 17 minutes is the country read large and new york specifically watches that first crash and shrugs. you probably, if you watch tv that morning, you probably remember going through this
precise thought process. the tv was live at 8:49 that morning from the twin towers, three minutes after the first crash. and for 14 minutes, and americaa watched that first crash. and i bet everyone in this room who watched said the same thing that i did, which is some combo of must be a small plane, must be a weird aviation accident, pilate had a heart attack, air traffic control is having a bad day, plane is having some sort of mechanical problem. and that was the reaction from the whole country. one of the most breathtaking quotes in the book to me is from peter johansson, the captain of one of the new york commuter fairies who talks about watching the first crash from new york's harbor as he's coming into the wall street terminal in lower
manhattan. they see the crash and continue on into lower manhattan. they dock, and every single commuter on the boat gets off and walks into work in lower manhattan. they walk off the boat through papers and envelopes fluttering down from the impact. there is not a single person on the ferry who says this seems like it's going to be a weird day. brian gunderson the chief of staff he walks past it on the way to the morning staff meeting at nine and says i thought it
was like i thought it was going to be like a bad school shooting the type of thing that dominates national news and it doesn't dot fundamentally affect anyone's day. president bush and condoleezza rice the national security advisor that morning, condoleezza rice calls the president, they talk about the crash and how strange the crash is. condoleezza rice goes into her meeting and president bush walks into the classroom at booker elementary school to read to the schoolchildren. robert mueller, the fbi director was in his second week on the job and the way the fbi was bringing him up to speed he started to tuesday, september 4, 2001 and every morning at 8 a.m., he was being briefed on the biggest cases that the fbi
was working. 8 a.m., tuesday september 11. he sits down for his first briefing on the investigation of al qaeda and the bombing of the u.s.s. cole. forty-nine minutes later, someone enters and tells him the plane has crashed into the world trade center. bob mueller, director of the fbi, sitting in a briefing on al qaeda has the same reaction as the lieutenant general. he looks at the conference room at the seventh floor of the hoover building at the blue sky that covered the east coast that day and said how on earth did the plane manage to hit the world trade center that day and then they go back to their meeting. of course at 9:03, we realized something very different is unfolding. we realized that we are under attack, and the day begins to unfold dramatically differently.
one of the things that sort of comes through from their is just how much the nation improvised its response to 9/11. just how much the country was unprepared for that day and we saw people at all levels making incredible decisions under incredibly difficult circumstances. and so, i spent a lot of time in the book following some of the stories that you probably don't remember or may have ever known in the first place from that day, because one of the things that turns out that happened on 9/11 is that there were all these things that had they happened on any other day of the year would have been among the most dramatic things individually that had ever happened in modern american history. but on 9/11 they were not even the most ten or 12 interesting things to happen that day.
and there were two of them that i spend a good chunk of time in the book talking about. the first being the maritime evacuation of lower manhattan, which was as it turns out that the largest maritime evacuation in world history. larger than that of the british from dunkirk. and it was put together that morning by this incredible makeshift armada of pleasure yachts -- some of them literally stolen from the marinas of lower manhattan -- ferry boats, tugboats, fishing vessels, and all sorts of sort of civilian watercraft piloted by civilians pulling out and doing everything that they could to get people off of lower manhattan, 500,000 people evacuated from lower
manhattan by boat that morning. led by, organized by a single young lieutenant in the u.s. coast guard named michael day, who winds up with the pilots from the sandy hook benevolent pilots association, sort of coordinating this rescue effort on lower manhattan. and simply puts out a radio call saying all available boats, anyone who can come to lower manhattan. and they fill the day with just this incredible armada. lieutenant day says in his oral history i broke more laws that day than i have enforced in the totality of the rest of the 30 year coast guard career. [laughter] the second sort of incredible herculean effort that day was
led by one of the men in the excerpt that i read to you. the effort by the faa and air traffic control to put 4500 planes on the ground that were in the air at 9:42 that morning after the crash the pentagon. ben swiney, the national operations manager for the faa was in his first day on the job was the national operations manager at the faa and in his first 90 minutes gives to orders that no american has ever given before or since. shortly after the second crash at 9:03, he institutes a nationwide gross stop. no plane that is not in the air will be allowed to take off across the country. and that at 9:42, the order to land all planes at the closest available airport, regardless of
destination. and regardless of whether the airport is in any way prepared for all of the airplanes that are about to land. and it becomes this incredible story of an industry sort of behind the scenes operating without any protocols, without any procedures that responds instantaneously to an unfolding national tragedy, that on the folds by the way as they believe that there are still hijacked planes in the air. it's sort of one of the things that we forget when we talk about the sort of neat and clean version of the 9/11 history is how much confusion and how long the confusion rippled over the course of that morning. that as late as early afternoon the u.s. government believes that there might still be as many as a dozen further hijacked planes in the air.
that as much as we now talk about these as the attacks on new york and the pentagon and shanksville, the fear that today was coast-to-coast, the prudential center in boston was evacuated, the sears tower in chicago was evacuated, the skyscrapers of los angeles were evacuated. in florida, disney closed. the first time and only time that disney has ever closed because of a hostile act. and they evacuated the park assuming that it was a target. assuming that all the sky rises across the country were further targets. at the white house, during that hour they assumed that there are more hijacked planes coming towards washington. they know of at least one, united airline flight 93.
and you see the secret service agents shouting at the white house staff to evacuate, to take off your shoes and run. the capital, similarly they evacuate and tell people to run. at the white house, they rush vice president cheney into the bunker under the north lawn. and the secret service stand their posts, assuming that they are about to die as one of the inbound planes it's the white house. the supervisor and the joint operations center at the white house stands up and shouts after impact, anyone who survives go to the alternate command center and we will pick up there. and air traffic control in virginia during this time, then says land every plane now.
they put 750 planes on the ground in the first ten minutes. this incredible nationwide effort, and we are sort of only familiar with like one really tiny bit of this story, which is the 38 planes that end up in gander newfoundland, the transatlantic flights diverted to canadian destinations, the 7,000 people dropped into a town of 9,000 that are then housed with zero minutes notice for four days until the planes begin to return to the united states on friday night and saturday. and this is sort of the type of thing, the stories that you find sort of buried amid the parts of 9/11 that we actually are quite familiar with, the twin towers,
the pentagon and shanksville. and the extent to which the sort of america improvises a response with no plan and no procedures and part of what makes that so interesting to me is over the course of a day when we look at 9/11 at the national level, the day that a schoolchild had that today it was as the day that he had at the faa and just as confusing and confounding as president bush had. there was a shared experience and emotion of the day that is really sort of fascinating to go back and when you begin to look at it at the national level, you have a better understanding of why this day has had such residence with us as a country.
because we sort of all had the same day whether we had anything to do with it or not. and the sites of 9/11 are so indelibly printed in our minds, the blue sky, the planes, the crashes, the smoke. i opened the book with the tale of frank culbertson who on 9/11 was the one american of the planet earth the nasa astronaut aboard the international space station. and he talks about how looking down from the international space station that day he watched the attacks unfold. but on the first half he watched the dust cloud of the second collapse over lower manhattan. on the next pass 90 minutes
later you could see the gash in the side of the pentagon. and on the next use all the empty skies, the contrails of the plane disappearing. and two passes later, you remember seeing the one trail left over north america. the only plane in the sky president bush heading back to washington from the air force base. and as strong as the sites of 9/11 are, one of the things i spend a lot of time talking about is the memories i found most fascinating as i was going through this oral history was that while most of us remember the sites, 9/11 for those who lived it with the full 360-degree sensory experience so it's the sounds of 9/11 and what
it tasted like, what 9/11 smelled like, what 9/11 felt like to the touch. when you go back and look at the histories of the volunteer firefighters who go to shanksville, every single one of them talks about the smell of the crash site and how that is the memory that they will never forget. when you talk to the first responders and the survivors of the collapse of the towers, they talked about the taste of the dust in their mouth. it was like having a sock in your mouth or having a mouth full of bisquick and when you talk to the people that arrived at lower manhattan the iron workers and the rescue workers who flooded in to try to find
their colleagues, what they talkabout is the dust and what t was like to walk through 6 inches of cotton marshmallow fresh fallen snow across lower manhattan. and then what everyone talks about and many of you in the room probably remember this, the profound silence of the afternoon of 9/11 that after the towers fell and schools let out and businesses let out across the country, the planes were grounded. just how silent america was and that was true in lower manhattan and a person in fargo north dakota talking about how he remembers going out that afternoon and how silent the
skies were and it was this moment the aviation noise of daily life we remember. we don't realize how much we hear that until it's gone. what comes through at the national level is the incredibly huge role, the random luck that fate played on that day and the incredible minor life decisions that we each make a thousand times a day without ever imagining the alternate futures we could be unlocking, that day literally meant the difference between life and death. the chef at windows on the world, the restaurant atop the north tower would have normally been in his kitchen at 8:30 that morning. he was in his kitchen every day
at 8:30 except that today he stopped in the basement of the world trade center and the shopping concourse to buy a new pair of glasses at lenscrafters amidst the last elevator to the top of the tower. seventy-two with his colleagues died and he didn't. joseph watt was a computer salesman who was supposed to be at a conference on windows of the world that morning and he was having breakfast at the marriott hotel sort of sandwiched between the two twin towers. and at breakfast one of his colleagues gifted him a new tide. she had been on vacation the week before and saw a tie she thought that he would like and bought it. he was so touched by the gesture he said i'm going to go put this on. i'm going to go back to my room and change my shirt and throw this on. you go ahead to the conference.
his colleagues died and he didn't. monica o'leary was the unluckiest person at fitzgerald. she was laid off from cantor fitzgerald in the north tower on the 108th floor on the afternoon of tuesday september 10. she gathered up her belongings in a box and said goodbye to all of her colleagues and left and she was home in time to watch general hospital. the next day, all of her colleagues were killed. she started back at work at fitzgerald the following week as the firm tried to rebuild and get back on its feet. since the entire department had been wiped out on tuesday morning, no one had even taken her off the payroll.
that plays out over the course of the entire country over the course of that day the number of people that switched the flights on to one of the hijacked planes were switched their flights off of the hijacked planes at the last minute. people stopped for blueberry muffins and ended up living that day because they decided they were hungry on the way into work. the new york giants game went late monday night, september 10. it was in denver and so it was played mountain time and there are hundreds of people who lived on 9/11 because they stayed up and watched the end of a football game and went to work at nine instead of eight. we see this play out in ways big and small. his first day on the job at the faa and then in the pentagon we
followed two women, sheila and louise as they start their first day at the pentagon on septembee sitting in their office doing what you do in the first hour filling out personnel forms. one of them collects the forms and walks over to the fax machine, this is 2001 you had to actually fax something. she walks up, hits the stop button and the building explodes. she's standing there on the fire wondering what she did to the fax machine. [laughter] and then she and her colleagues that day, many of her colleagues died and sheila and she end up surviving getting out in part
because of the incredible efforts of some of her colleagues. and this is where, again, you sort of see these incredible stories of the human response to 9/11. and of course, we are familiar with the firefighters and the police officers and the emts and the paramedics who go into the towers in new york. in the pentagon, it is a story of military officers that run out of a burning building and realize their colleagues are still trapped inside and turn around and run back in and end up saving every life that morning that gets saved. every single person that survived the pentagon was pulled from the pentagon and the first 30 minutes. and so, but for sort of the work of the military officers sort of rushing right into that building, the death toll that
day would have been much higher. and this becomes sort of a story, again, that you would see played out in lots of different ways. a quadriplegic working on the 64th floor of the north tower with the port authority, 12 of his colleagues that day -- not all of whom he actually knew -- came up to carry him down all 64 floors to escape the tower, and he survives that day because they did it because they made clear to him that he wasn't going to be left behind. and of course they didn't fully understand at that point that they were rescuing their own lives, because not everyone really believed, most people didn't understand that the towers could actually collapse. we had been through this in 1993 with the first bombing and people sort of thought this was going to be the same thing.
it would involved in evacuation and the firefighters thought it might even take a couple days to put the fires out, but it didn't initially understand the buildings were in danger of falling. and this sort of confusion and lack of understanding about what we were living through that day becomes the universal theme throughout that day. and of course it was hindered in many ways by the communications technology available at the time. i mean,, we think of 9/11 as part of our modern world. i think in many ways we could argue it is the beginning of our modern world. it is probably as clear a dividing line as we have between the 20th century and the 21st. but the technology that we had in 2001 was the comparative stone age.
president bush's traveling party that day have some of the most cutting edge technology available to them. they had to wait pagers and the fancy pagers where when you got a page you could send one of four different program responses to the page so that's the way the president that morning ends up learning of the crash for the first time, the traveling party first learns of the first crash by pager on the drive to the booker elementary school. over the course of much of the rest of the day he is hidden aboard air force one off to first barksdale air force base and then ultimately off the air force base in part because in 2001 was the only place outside
of washington, d.c. where you could host a video teleconference if you are the president. now the president travels with a briefcase and hosts the exact same videoconference. but that morning aboard air force one there was no e-mail, no cable, no satellite tv. and so the president of the united states relied on the rabbit ear antennas to pick up local tv coverage as air force one is flying around the southern united states and it would fade in as they got closer to an urban area and then fade out as they flew past it. so over the course of the day you are left with an incredible realization that for most of the day the president of the united states actually knew less about what was transpiring in the country below than the average
american sitting at home watching cnn. it's these type of observations and emotions and sentences and things that i think end up being so critical to understanding 9/11 not in the way we tell it in history but in the way that we actually live it because the confusion of that day is what we most remember as individuals standing around. and again this is true if you are the president or a schoolchild or one of these first responders. one of the other breathtaking quotes in the book is denise miller, a police sergeant in indian lake pennsylvania. one of the small communities around shanksville that ends up being one of the first police
officers on the scenes. she talks about how she's arriving at the crash scene and knows poor facts about the day. she knows two planes had hit the world trade center. a plane has hit the pentagon and this plane has crashed in this field. so she is standing there in this abandoned coal mine in shanksville and slovenia. assuming the terrorists meant to crash the plane and the particular field which is not a bad assumption if the only facts you have that morning are that of the other two planes hit the world trade center and the other one hit the pentagon and then there's this one. so she is standing there scared because she doesn't know what is buried under the field of the
government has that the terrorists are trying to blow up. and she also knows that there were two planes that hit the world trade center so she is standing there scared looking into the sky looking for the other planes that are coming to crash into that field. this was all she knew at the time and for much of the day, none of us understood why united airlines flight 93 had crashed. we didn't really even understand that day whether it had crashed or whether it had been shut down. the story of the shoot down orders sort of ends up being its own fascinating window into that day. vice president cheney is rushed into that bunker under the north
lawn of the white house built by harry truman, never used for its intended purpose on any day before or since but for that morning it becomes the nation's command center and vice president cheney is hidden again with very limited technology. the technology in that day was so limited that he couldn't actually turn the volume up on both of the video teleconference and the tv. so he's sitting there all day trying to decide am i listening to the video teleconference or to the tv, because i can't do both. and shortly after 10 a.m., the commander, the director of the bunker that day, the navy aviator comes to him and says we need authority to shoot down any
further airliners. commander barnes had never spoken publicly before he talked to me. and he told me in the book sort of a story of that conversation where he understood the momentum of what he was asking. so he gets permission from cheney and then he goes back and asks repeatedly again and again for permission to shootdown the hijacked airliners. he wants to be clear that there is no ambiguity on either the vice president or the end of the pentagon about what their orders are and finally he gets angry at him and says i've already told you, shootdown the hijacked airliners. when that ends up getting transmitted to the fighter pilots, who are being rushed into the sky that day again the
part of this improvised response because we were not prepared, we didn't have any plans or procedures for an attack that came from within the borders. so at andrews air force base outside of dc, heather penny and mike are the two pilots scrambled into the air. both of their planes without any weapons at all and they understand as they are racing out to their planes on the tarmac they are being sent up on a, because the mission that if they encounter a hijacked airliner, the one weapon that they have is their own fighter jet and they understand if they are successful that day, neither one of them will return to base so's they are shouting back and forth as they loaded themselves,
you aim for the cockpit and i will aim for the tail and they rush into the sky and this is sort of where again you have to realize the confusion everyone is dealing with and they become these huge gaps in the story of the day and the difference between the impact people have and the experience that they are having. none of the people involved in this understand that it's all over. vice president cheney gives the shootdown order that morning, the best of the 9/11 commission can untangle is he gave the order between 1012 and 1018 that morning. heather penny and mark don't even get into the sky, the fighters don't take off until about 10:30 and of course united airlines flight 93 crashed at
10:03 and shanksville. they don't know that. they don't know there are no further hijacked planes in the sky and the whole thing is over before the fighter jets get there yet for much of the morning we didn't know what we had done. we didn't really understand whether the attacks were still unfolding and it wasn't until about 4:00 that afternoon eastern time that the last plane was grounded, u.s. airways flight from madrid was the last commercial plane grounded that today and ultimately the country realizes that it's all over but then of course what we don't know is what's coming the next day, what's coming on line 12, what's coming in october. and i think if you had asked
president bush and told him sort of the following facts, i don't know which he would have found more surprising that in the next 18 years, al qaeda would never successfully attack the homeland again, or that for the 18th anniversary of 9/11, his successor would invite the taliban to camp david. that sort of both of the facts would seem completely inconceivable to him on the morning of 912. and that sort of trying to go back and capture that confusion and fear is the story that we need to make sure we remember as we talk about 9/11 going forward and try to hand off to a new generation the world that we created out of that emotion.
i will leave it there and we can take a couple of questions and dive a little bit deeper into this as you would like. [applause] there's a microphone over here if anyone has a question. >> i will repeat. >> also presentation and a very emotional. you talk about some of the lock and the fate people experienced. how about your conversations that i think you had with some of the folks for example that interacted max.
>> the question was there's a section in the book that follows the clerks that check in the hijackers on the morning of 9/11 and of course they check in for reasons that are still unclear to us. they take this early morning commuter jet into boston before picking up the hijacked plane. in some ways the people in the
book talk about it was a firefighter talking about if he was evacuating the north tower he felt he could hear the spooky music playing, the sword of the spooky music that plays just before the monster arrives before it jumps out from behind the door. one of the things that becomes clear in the book as you go back and look at this is all of these moments where you want to sort of reach through the pages and scream don't get on the plane or don't do that and one of the most poignant is the story of the ticket clerks that morning
because they talk about how they went to extra effort to get the hijackers on the plane. they did their jobs. the hijackers were running late and they see these passengers come in with first-class tickets and they are like okay you know know wecan still get you on boa. and he says in the book you must go now. you will miss your plane and it sort of becomes this moment you think about how different the world would be in terms of the way things would have unfolded in alternate futures and alternate universes. and he talks about how you know, one of the things i do try to capture in the book throughout is 9/11 is not over for the people who lived it, for us as a
country this is something we are still wrestling with and the clerk talks about how he really sort of suffered this mental anguish afterwards and how he just didn't feel like there was any room for him in the grief of 9/11 and he would try to go to these support groups and he would be like you're saying you lost a family member, what do i say i let the hijackers on the plane. he sort of has this thing where every time someone says you know, i lost my husband or i lost my mother, he hears you killed my husband, you killed my mother. and 9/11 is still something that
we are sort of struggling with thinking about in the mental anguish and ptsd that has unfurled through it. one of the port authority officers, there were only two people rescue it from underneath the towers. they were the stars of that movie that some of you may have seen, world trade center with nicolas cage. he talks about how for him the day that he beats ptsd will be the day that he's put in the ground and for him he sort of understand's this is something he's going to live with for his entire life. and i don't mean -- he's one of
the most inspirational people i met in the course of this. he was trapped under the towers until about 11:00 that night. the three other officers that were with his port authority team were killed in the collapse around him and he and john mcglocklin lives and he talks about how he goes around and talks to schoolkids and actually addicts now. he talks about this experience and says i had 220 stories of the world trade center fall on top of me but in our lives we all have our world trade center's that fall on us and for some of us it's the loss of a family member and some it is the loss of a job. for some it's thinking we can't even make it through the midterm next week and for him his
message is that it's all about how you handle the trade center when it falls on you is what ends up mattering but when i say we are still living with 9/11, we are of course seeing the unfolding of the depths thereafter. this summer we marked one of the main characters in the book and he was the highest ranking official to survive that day. the morning after he becomes the chief of department and today he's the fire commissioner. this summer dan announced of the death of the 200th firefighter from the world trade center related injuries and diseases.
so for a department that saw 343 people die that day, they've lost now two thirds of that number in the years since. down here. >> in your research did you come across the type of flight instruction that these hijackers received? i heard they were concerned about flying but they had little interest in landing. did that come out in your research, the type of instruction? ..
>> the memory of 9/11 is equally confounding to them, this idea of in 2001 did carry a pocket knife on board. you know, that sort of -- they asked how the plane got hijacked and everyone today is like why were we allowed to carry a knife on board a plane 2 well, you know come i can't even bring my water bottle on the plane anymore. and again, that sort of falls into the category of the things we forget about this is how much 9/11 changed. it was never considered a plane as a missile before. and so the air traffic controllers, they are concerned due to the hijacking but they are going through the standard protocols.
and it's going to fly wherever they want to fly in the noble land and we will negotiate and then the hostages get off to get rid of some money and it is sort of that mindset that again is sort of hard to capture today. because of course what makes flight 93 so much different than the first three planes was that it was 45 minutes for a plane ride. and it was the one thing that is always constant in american life. so the plane takes off 45 minutes later than it is supposed to. which means that when the passengers start talking about it, the passengers start to save their plane has been hijacked, their family members are telling them about the twin towers and about the pentagon. they realize what has happened.
they realize that they need to take the plane back or they are going to be the next missile. cement there is a question back up in here. >> you describe what happened on 9/11 very artfully and eloquently. and so i can't help but think back to pearl harbor when the last time we were attacked and i'm wondering if you can reflect on that and how that impacted the country. how that is similar to what 9/11 did. yes, i think that it is true that when you look at american history, that there are sort of three moments in history that sort of each generation subsequently has burned into them and pearl harbor, the kennedy assassination and 9/11.
so when you look at and those in the audience may remember that in the years after pearl harbor, pearl harbor day was a real thing. but it was not quite a national holiday, but it was a day that was observed, is the type of thing that you did not schedule it to take place on december 7. in the same way that sort of today we tried to avoid large celebratory events on 9/11. and it sort of becomes a place for next-generation of the kennedy assassination. so for me it's sort of one of the weirdest realizations that i had in the book is that i have a
1-year-old daughter and for her, 9/11 will be as removed historically as the kennedy assassination was to me, as someone born in 1981, which sort of, to me, it just kind of -- i'm a history buff and the kennedy assassination could not be more ancient history and what it is. and i write about it as real history. i covered the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination and the idea is that 9/11 will be as weirdly removed it to her. and i can kind of tell you sort of everyday, every minute of that day is unfolded for me.
and that is sort of one of the things when you talk to other individuals and maybe some of your parents in the room, remember this as well, one of the things that i talked about people telling about the stories, talking about pearl harbor day is this is something to talk about in the present and. this sort of talk about as i was here and i was doing this. and the last question? cement down here. >> that's right, you might have two different people, this was
an incredible situation, both of these are incredible larger-than-life individuals. vietnam veteran who is the director of security for morgan stanley and they wanted the firm's that talks about evacuation planning after the 1993 bombing and the twin towers. and he leads is incredible evacuation the south tower area before the opening minutes of the first half and ultimately saved hundreds of lives of morgan stanley employees who
ultimately loses his own life and two of his other security personnel as well, sort of going by making sure that everyone is evacuated and then there was john was probably familiar to those of you and that means the lead al qaeda investigator and lead the hunt through the embassy bombings in 1998. and again coming up with this in august 2001. kind of retiring from the guy
and actually on thursday i was speaking at the 9/11 museum in new york and was talking with the last person that saw john o'neill a liar and who is another fbi agent. in the service of this incredibly well and sort of ringing the alarm bell and it is not listen to and retires in frustration in august 2001 and that includes throwing in the fight.
and then osama bin laden comes to him two weeks later. >> cement we have a change for today. >> because we have the 3-d exhibit, we have some changes, one of them unfortunately -- there will be no cookies and coffee tonight. [laughter] sorry about that. and then also we are going to have the signing tables here. and queue it up along the side and again it was brilliant, it really was. [cheers] ,. [applause]
>> 20 years ago on september 11, 2001, to large commercial airliners flew into the world trade buildings in new york city in 2763 people lost their lives. two minutes later american airlines flight 77 crashed into the pentagon killing a total of 189 people. and the fourth plane, united 93 crashed into a field near shanksville, pennsylvania, at three minutes past 10:00 a.m. on that morning. forty-four people perish. these events, as everyone knows, were a great shot shock to our nation. as a small way to commemorate in u.s. history, here are some of the callers to the expand network the morning after beginning at 6:00 a.m.
>> the people are shaken to their very roots by this. >> a look back at the september september 11 attack on this episode of buck notes plus. and listen wherever you get your podcast. >> we have a look at some publishing industry news. congressman jamie raskin writing a memoir that will reflect on the death of his son and his experiences during capital riot and the lead impeachment manager during president comes impeachment trial. it is entitled unthinkable and will capture the life of a brilliant young man in crisis and the struggle to defend a democracy that we still have a chance to save. scheduled for january 4.
it will start to begin all of the trump administration and go from the withdrawal of the country. also, joining the subscription news platform and initially offer selections of the writing surgery and discuss future plans for the newsletter and saying that i would want data people tell me what you think about this and according. >> weekends on c-span2. every saturday. american history tv starts, and booktv brings you the latest in
nonfiction books and authors. and right now we are all facing our greatest challenge. and working round-the-clock to keep you connected. >> spotlight, along the television company, supporting c-span2 is a public service. >> coming up next, lawrence wright talks about "the looming tower", his pulitzer prize-winning book. >> talking about "the looming tower", his book for the national book awards that is up at this time. when did you start writing this book? >> i started on 9/11, that very