tv Garrett Graff The Only Plane in the Sky CSPAN October 14, 2019 12:10pm-1:31pm EDT
get rich: the financial misadventures of mark twain" is the name of the book. thanks for being with us. >> thank you. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> so before i introduce our lecture tonight, many of you are aware of my previous two government positions were at the pentagon and that u.s. central command, and you know that i've taken a great interest in having more veterans type programs here at the museum and at the library. however, tonight it's a little different. i normally ask veterans to please stand up and take a bow, but tonight i'm going to make a little change. i would like anybody who was a first responder, somebody who was a police officer, a fireman,
and emt paramedic to please stand up. [applause] >> thank you very much for what you do in keeping us safe and keeping us safe every single day. and thank you for the mission that you do every single day for us. and now onto the knights program. it is absolute pleasure to have garrett graff back with us here. the last time he was here he spoke about the governments doomsday plan from his last book raven rock of the straight u.s. government secret plan to say that some of the rest of us die. [laughing] tonight we are welcoming him back to the museum to discuss another very somber topic, the terror attacks of 9/11. he has collected and organized 360 degrees account of the day told through the voice of people who experienced it in his new book, "the only plane in the
sky." he is a distinguished magazine journalist, regular tv commentator was spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology and national security. garrett is the author of a number of books including the first campaign globalization,, the web in the race for the whitest which examine the role of technology in the 2008 presidential race, and the threat matrix, inside robert mueller's fbi which faces a history of fbi counterterrorism efforts. his other recent book as i mentioned co-authored with john called examines the rise of cyber threats across america. today he served as director of the aspen institute cybersecurity and technology program and is contributed, contribute to wired, long reads and cnn. he's written for publications from esquire to the "new york times" and the served as the editor of two of washington's
most prestigious magazines, the washingtonian and political magazine which he helped lead to its first national magazine award, the industries highest honor. on this book author and historian michael beschloss has said garrett graff has definitely used oral history to take us into one of the most horrific inconsequential moments in american history. in the book that will be particularly important for those readers too young to remember 9/11. it's true challenges, it is a true child of the storms to report history so the next generation can understand these momentous events. i will also add that the only thing in the sky is, sitting on the number four on the "new york times" for combine printed e-book and the number five and the hardcover fiction list. and it is an absolute great pleasure to once again welcome mr. garrett graff back to the ford museum.
[applause] >> good evening, everyone. thanks for coming out and it's a pleasure to be back in grand rapids. for those who came to my talk last year on nuclear war, thanks for coming out for another uplifting night of discussion of american history. so this book as a jewel laid out is an oral history of 9/11. it is 9/11 told through the voices of those who lived it, 480 american morning tonight coast to coast. to give a little bit of grounding in the work before i start talking about it, i wanted to just start by reading one of the short chapters. the book is 64 sort of finely
sliced chapters in chronological order across the country. and this is a chapter that takes place inside air-traffic control in the u.s. military from about 8:25 tuesday morning september 11 until about 8:50 morning. peter zaleski, air-traffic controller, boston center, nashua new hampshire. when american airlines flight 11 came to me, the pilot said boston center, this is american 11. climbing the flight level 230. i called him many, many times american 11, how do you hear? american 11, this is boston center, do you hear me? i'm calling and calling and unlike my god, they must be of the drinking dunkin' donuts coffee. honestly, that's what i was thinking. then there's these
transmissions. transmissions. the first transmission from aircraft is garbled. i don't understand it. then the was the second one, a voice, remember him saying, nobody move, please. we're going back to the airport. i will never forget the feeling at the back of my neck feels like this adrenaline or something. i felt fear like oh, my god, the plane has been hijacked. collins schoolgirls, airspace specialist in military specialist faa boston center. i came in about a 25 a.m. and a soon as i walked in the front door someone came to me and said it was a hijacked going on. we worked hijacked in the past and they were usually uneventful. peter zaleski, i yelled at the supervisor john, get over here. the plane has been hijacked, absolutely. i go, it's middle eastern voices, positive. i could tell that second time. i was used to working egypt air,
saudi, turkish, all of them. it is definitely made her middle eastern voices. scoggins, the pilot on american 11 mohammad atta, the lead terrorist stated something about more planes, that they had more planes it was definitely plural here that's when things really started to ramp up. faa command center, virginia. i was a national operations manager on 9/11. that is a position located at the washington area that is overarching authority over the nation's airspace. that was my charge, the safe and efficient operation of the nation's air space. colonel bob mark, commander northeast air defense, rome new york. there was a huddle of people run one of the radar scopes. i saw that huddle and thought there's got to be something wrong. major general larry arnold come first air force, kindle air force base 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 wind up the exercise, my executive officer had a slip of paper. it said bob mark called and was hijacking in the boston center. my experience with hijacking and our protocol was that we cooperate. lieutenant don tuscans, mission commander north eastern air defense. at this point are mites it was a 1970s vintage hijacked. we didn't have a huge concern this aircraft was going to crash. major general larry arnold, i said bob, go ahead and scramble the fighters. major joe mcquade, f-15 pilot, otis air force base, cape cod massachusetts. a scramble order was issued. i ran to the jets. i started up the car realized we didn't have any weapons.
they feel are jets with gas and even though we were winchester, that means would you have any weapons, we took off. lieutenant colonel tim duffy, f-15 pilot, otis air force base. when we took off i left it in full after born of the whole time. we work supersonic going down to long island and my wing man nasty, he 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 marr, mach one it would take them 60 minutes to get to new york. that's ten miles a minute. lieutenant colonel kevin, mission commander northeast air defense. almost simultaneously brought in more surveillance technicians to look at scopes. staff sergeant larry thorton, northeast air defense, the area was so congested hijacked flight was incredibly difficult to find. we were looking for little dash marks and 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 street in from the north towards new york. the plane was fast and headed in an unusual direction with no transponder. we watch that track until it faded over new york city. lieutenant general tom cech, commander, shreveport, louisiana. we were in the midst of this big annual exercise called global guardian. the vote of all bombs, but the submarines out to sea, put the icbms at nearly 100%. it was routine. we did it every year. the captain came in and said we haven't aircraft that hit the world trade center. i started to correct it saying, when you have an exercise input you have to start by saying i have an exercise input. that we 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 clear and nine-day coda plane hit the world trade center? this book group out of an article that i wrote for political magazine in 201616 for the 15th anniversary of 9/11 that was an oral history of being aboard air force one with president bush. i went out and the interviewed 28 of the people were with the present that day from the pilot of air force one to the fighter pilots who accompanied him to white house chief of staff andy card and karl rove, ari fleischer, the other senior aides aboard the plane, the press, security and stenographer aboard the plane that day. published in 2016, and i was astounded by the reader feedback
i got the date published, dozens, then scores and finally hundreds of letters from readers of people sharing their own stories of 9/11 and their own reactions. twtwo of those reaction stood ot to me, and two of them i just sort couldn't get out of my mind. the first was from a mother, a veteran, who had two children, 79, she said she printed out the article and set it aside -- seven and nine -- so one day when her children old enough to read she would sit them down and explain to them why mommy had left him to go off to war. the second was another letter from another veteran, a younger guy, an army veteran. he was in middle school on 9/11 and he had done three doors, two in afghanistan, one in iraq. and he said he had never really
understood the nation's trauma on 9/11 until he had seen that article and seeing the days through president bush's eyes. and i just couldn't get past this idea that we were passing a world shaped by 9/11 on now to a generation who has no emotional connection or memory to it. it's always hard to know when and a particle event shifts from memory to history. but i think you could make an argument that it is probably for 9/11 this year. this is the first year when you of college students arriving on campuses across the country born after 9/11. 9/11. that this year for the first time we have american servicemen and women being deployed to fight in a war older than they are.
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 that article into this book, which shares the same title, "the only plane in the sky" referring to the end of 9/11 when president bush left offutt air force base outside omaha, nebraska, and flew back to washington at about 4:15 p.m., after all of the commercial planes in the country had been grounded, and during that final leg of the flight he was effectively the only plane left in the sky in north america. this book, the goal was not to capture the history of 9/11, but the goal was to capture what
america experienced on 9/11. because when you begin to go back to that day and you look at the memories that america has of that day, for those of us who are old enough to remember the experience they had, the story of 9/11 is actually pretty different than the story that we kill in our history books. that when you go back and we tell of 9/11 we tried to explain 9/11 to someone, we tell this very neat and clean history of that day. we say the attack started at 8:46 with the crash of american 11 into the north tower. and it ended at 10:29 with the collapse of the second tower, 102 minutes later. that if you remember 9/11, that's not the day that you remember and that's not the
story that in of us lived that day. we didn't know when the attacks began. we didn't know when the attacks were over. and we didn't know what came next. and the fear and the trauma in the chaos and the confusion of that day is the true story of 9/11. because when we tried to hand this set of memories off to a new generation, to the recorder 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 that when you look at the world that we created, if you look at the way that 9/11 shape our geopolitics internationally
at our domestic politics here at home, you can't explain the world that we are handed off to a future generation simply by explaining the facts of 9/11. because the decisions that our country may, the decisions that our leaders made were not driven by the history of 9/11. they were driven by the emotions of 9/11. they were driven by that fear, by that trauma, by that chaos and that confusion. and so this book is an attempt to capture that sweep of the day, not as we understood 9/11 later, but as understood 9/11 while it unfolded. and so to compile the book, it's a mix of original interviews that i did, and then archived
oral histories done by institutions like the 9/11 museum in new york, the 9/11 tribute center, the pentagon historian, the capitol hill historian, the arlington county public library, the flight 93 national memorial, that park service compiled in shanksville. and i found with the researcher who worked with me on this book, we found about 5000 of those original oral histories archived around the country, and ultimately boiled it down to about 2000. i spent a year working with, to end up telling the story that i tell in this book. and there's certain things and some big observations that sort of girl out of looking at 9/11 on a national level like that. but 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 you actually have to 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. 8:46 a.m. to 9:03. and what unfolds during the 17 minutes is that the country writ large and new york specifically watches at first crash and shrugs. and you probably if you watched tv that morning, you probably remember going through this
resize thought process. that tv was live at 8:49 that morning from the twin towers, three minutes after the first crash. and for 14 minutes america watched that first crash, and i'll bet i do it 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, i 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 to the whole, from the whole country. one of the mos breathtaking quos in the book, watching the first crash from new york harbor as he's coming into the wall street turmoil in lower manhattan.
he sees the crash. they continue on into lower manhattan. sadock, and every single commuter -- they dock -- everything commuter walks into work in lower manhattan. they walk off the boat through papers in envelopes fluttering down from the attack. there's not a single person on the ferry who says, you know what, this seems like it's going to be a weird day. i'm going to go work from home for the rest of the day. brian gunderson, the chief of staff to house majority leader dick armey that morning, you know, every congressional office has the tv in the reception as you walk into the office. he walks passe past it on the wn to the morning staff meeting at nine. he looks at it and he says, i thought it was like, i thought
it was going to be like a bad school shooting. a type of thing that dominates national news but doesn't fundamentally affect anyone's day. president bush and condi rice, the national security adviser that morning. condi rice calls the president. they talk about the crash. they talk about how strange the crash is. condi rice goes on into her 9:00 meeting, and president bush walks into the classroom in sarasota, florida, to read to the schoolchildren. robert mueller, the fbi director, was in his second week on the job. he was, the way that the fbi was bring him up to speed, he started tuesday, september 4, 20011, 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 uss cole. 49 minutes later someone enters and tells him a 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 lieutenant colonel as a ritchie. he looked out the winner on the seventh floor of the hoover building at the blue sky that covered the east coast that day and said, how on earth did a plane managed to hit the world trade center today? then they go back to the 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.
and one of the things that sort of comes through from there is just how much the nation and provide its response to 9/11, just how much the country was unprepared for that day. and we saw sort of people at all levels make 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 never known in the first place from that day. one of the things that turned out that happened on 9/11 is that there were all of these things that had happened on any other day of the year would've been among the most dramatic things individually at that ever happen in modern american history, but on 9/11 were not among the ten or 12 most interesting things that happened
that day. and there are two of them that i spend a good chunk of time in the book talking about. the first being a type evacuation of lower manhattan. which was, as it turns out, the largest maritime evacuation in world history. larger than evacuation 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, ferryboats, tugboats, fishing vessels and all sorts of civilian watercraft piloted by civilians, holding up 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 ends 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, come to lower manhattan. and they fill that day with just this incredible armada, and lieutenant day says in his oral history, i broke more laws that day that i have enforced in the totality of the rest of a 30 year coast guard career. 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 era at 9:42 that morning after -- in the air -. that national operations manager for the faa was in his first day on the job as the national operations manager at the faa. and in his first 90 minutes gives to my quarters that no american is ever given before or since. short after the second crash at 9:03 he institutes and nationwide ground stop, that no plane that is not in the air will be allowed to take off across the country. and then at 9:42 the order to land all planes as 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 that day. and it becomes this incredible story of an industry sort of behind the scenes operating without any protocols, without any procedures that respond instantaneously to an unfolding national tragedy, that unfolds by the way as they believe that there are still hijacked planes in the air. sort of one of the things that we forget when we talked about this 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 believe 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 day 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. the evacuated the park, assuming that it was a target, assuming that all of these sky prices across the country were further targets. at the white house during that hour, they assume that there are more hijacked planes coming towards washington. they knew of at least one, united airlines 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, the evacuate and tell people to run. and the white house, they rush vice president cheney into the bunker under the north lawn. the secret service stand their posts, assuming that they are about to die, as one of the inbound planes hits the white house. the supervisor and the joint operations center at the white house stands up and shouts, after in fact, anyone who survives go to the alternate command center and we will pick up there. at air traffic control in virginia during this time, ben
sliney says, land every plane now. they put 750 planes on the ground in the first ten minutes. this incredible nation what effort, and we're sort of only smelly with one really tiny bit of this story, which is the 38 planes that end up in gander newfoundland, the transatlantic flights diverted to canadian destination, the 7000 people drop into gander into a town of 9000 that are then housed there 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 types of things, the stories that you buy in 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 that sort of part of what makes that so interesting to me is that over the course of the day when we look at 9/11 at the national level, the day that a school child had that day was just as confusing and confounding as the day that ben sliney had at the faa, and just as confusing and confounding as president bush had. and it sort of this, there was this national shared experience and emotion of that 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 they have such residence with us as a country. because we sort of all had the same to, 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. and that was the day that sort of all of america had. i opened the book actually with the tail of rank culberson who are 9/11 was the one american off the planet earth, a nasa astronaut aboard the international space station and he talks about how looking down from the international space station that day he watched the day and the attacks unfold. that on the first path he actually watched the dust cloud of the second collapse over
lower manhattan. on the next path, 90 minutes later, he could see the dash in the side of the pentagon. and on the next path he saw the empty skies, the contrails of the planes disappearing. and that two passes later he remembers seeing the one contrail left over north america, the only playing in the sky, president bush heading back to washington from offutt air force base. and that as strong as the sites of 9/11 are, one of the things that i spend a lot of time in the book talking about because they were some of the memories that i found most fascinating as is going through these oral histories was that while most of us remember the sights, 9/11 for those who lived it was a full 360-degree sensory experience. and so it's the sense of 9/11 it's what 9/11 tasted like.
what 9/11 smelled like. what 9/11 felt like to the touch. when you go back and you look at the oral history 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 talk about that taste of the dust in their mouth. it was like having a wall sock in your mouth, or like having a mouth full of bisquick. and that when you talk to the people who arrived at, in lower manhattan over the course of the afternoon, the iron workers and the rescue workers who flooded
in to try to find their colleagues, what they talk about is the dust and what it was like to walk through six inches of hot knee, marshmallow week, fluffy, hot knee, fresh fallen snow across lower manhattan. in what everyone talks about coast to coast, and some of you probably in this room, many of you in this room probably remember this, is 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 for people in lower manhattan and it was true, i quote a person in fargo north dakota talking about how he remembers going out that afternoon and just how silent
the skies were and it was sort of this moment where the aviation noise of daily life, we remember, we don't realize how much we hear that until it's gone. the other thing that really comes through in looking at 9/11 at a national level is the incredibly huge role that random luck or fate played on that day. the way that incredibly minor life decisions, the types of decisions that we each make a thousand times a day without ever imagining the alternate future we could be unblocking. that day literally meant the difference between life and death. michael monaco, the chef at windows on the world, the restaurant on top of the north towers, he normally would've been at his kitchen at 838.
he was in his kitchen everyday at 8:30, except that day he stopped in the basement of the world trade center and the shopping concourse to buy a new pair of glasses at lenscrafters your and missed the last elevator to the top of the tower. 72 of his colleagues died, and he didn't. joseph lot was a computer salesman who was supposed to be at a conference at windows on the world that morning and he was having breakfast that morning in the marriott hotel consorted sandwiched between the two twin towers. and at breakfast as one of his colleagues tested him a new tie. she had been on vacation the week before, had seen a guy that she thought he would like and bought it for him. he was so touched by the gesture that he said, i'm going to go put this time on. i'm going to go back to my room and change my shirt and throw this type on. you guys go on ahead to the
conference. his colleagues died and he didn't. monica o'leary on september 10 was the unluckiest person at cantor fitzgerald. she was laid off from cantor fitzgerald in the north tower on the 100 eighth floor on the afternoon of tuesday, september 10. she gathered up her belongings in the box and said goodbye to all of our colleagues and left. she was home in time to watch general hospital. the next day all of our colleagues refueled. she started back at work at cantor fitzgerald the following week as the firm tried to rebuild and get back on its feet. everything was since the entire h.r. department had been wiped out on tuesday morning, no one had ever even taken her off
payroll. that plays out over the course of the entire country over the course of the day, the number of people who switched their flights on to one of the hijacked planes, or switched their flights off of the hijacked planes at the last minute. people stopped for blueberry muffins and end up living that day because they decided that they were hungry on the way into work the new york giants game went late monday night septembe. it was in denver and so it was played mountain time. and there are hundreds of people who lived on 9/11 because they just stayed up and watched the end of a football game and went into work at night instead of eight. you sort of see this play out in sort of ways make a small. ben sliney, his first day on the job at the faa. and then in the pentagon, we
followed two women, sheila ann louise, as they start their first day at the pentagon on september 11. they are sitting in the office doing what you do in the first hour of your first day at work, filling out your personnel forms. and one of them collects the forms at about 9:30 and walks over to the facts machine. this was 20,012,001. you actually have to fax something. she walks up to the facts machine, load the documents and, interest in the number, it's the start button and the building explodes. she's standing there singed, on fire, wondering what she did to the facts machine. [laughing] and that she and our colleagues that day coming of our colleagues died. she and sheila both in-depth surviving that they can get
outcome in part because of the incredible efforts of some of our colleagues. and this is where again you sort of see these incredible stories of the human response 9/11 and, of course, we are familiar with the firefighters and police officers and the emts and paramedics who go into the towers and up the towers in new york. in the pentagon, it's a story of military officers who want out of a burning building, 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 who survived the pentagon was pulled from the pentagon and the first 30 minutes. and so, for sort of the work of the military officers sort of rushing right in to that
building, the death toll that they would have been much higher. and this become sort of a story again that you see play 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 survived that day because they did and 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 risking their own lives, because not everyone really believed -- are 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 involve evacuation and then, you know, the firefighters thought it might take a couple of days to put the fires out but they did not initially understand that the buildings were in danger of falling. and this sort of confusion and lack of understanding about what we were living through that day, just becomes the universal theme throughout the day. and, of course, it was hindered in many ways by the communications technology available at the time. we think of 9/11 as part of our modern world. i think in many ways you could argue 9/11 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.
resident bushes traveling party that day -- president bush's traveling party that did some of most cutting edge technology available then. they had two-way pagers, and the really fancy two-way pagers where when you got a page you could send one of 14 different preprogrammed responses to the page. so that's the way the president that morning in the learning of the crash for the first time, the traveling party first learns of the first crash by pager on the drive to the elementary school. and then over the course of much of the rest of the day he is hidden aboard air force one, rushed in to sarasota, florida, first rushed off to air force base and then offered air force base because often air force base in 2001 was the only place
outside of washington, d.c. where he could host a hotel conference, if you with the president. now of course the president travels with a briefcase that can plug into any ethernet jack in the world and host that exact same press conference, or that 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 was relying on rabbit ears antennas to pick up local tv coverage has air force one is flying around the southern united states. the tv coverage would fade in as they got closer to an urban area and then fade out as they flew past it. so you sort of our left over the course of the day with this incredible realization, for most of the day the president of the trade actually knew less about what was transpiring in the
country below than the average american sitting at home watching cnn. these types of observations, these types of emotions and senses and scenes which i think in that being so critical to understanding 9/11, not as the way that we tell it in history, but in a way that we actually lived it. because the confusion of that day is at the things that we sort of most remember as individuals standing around. and again, this was true if you were the president, if you are a school child, or if you are one of these first responders, one of the other to me is sort of breathtaking quotes in the book is denise miller, the police sergeant in indian lake pennsylvania one of the small communities around shanksville who ends up being one of the first police officers on the
scene of flight 93. and she talks about how she's arriving at the crash scene and she knows four facts about the day. she knows that to mclean said that the world trade center. a plane has hit the pentagon, and this plane has crashed in this field. and so she is standing there in this abandon coal mine that was the crash scene in shanksville, pennsylvania, assuming that the terrorists meant to crash the plane into this particular field, which is not a bad assumption if the only four four facture of that morning or that the other two planes hit the world trade center, the other one hit the pentagon and then there's this one. so these standing there scared because she doesn't know what is buried under the field that the
government has, that the terrorists are trying to blow up. up. and she also knows that there were two planes that hit the world trade center. so she standing there scared, looking into the sky, looking for the other planes that are coming to crash into that field. again, this was all she knew at the time, and sort of, you know, for much of that day none of us understood why united airlines flight 93 had crashed. we we didn't even really understand that day whether it had crashed or whether it had been shot down. and the story of the shootdown orders sorted into being its own by sitting window into that day. vice president cheney is a 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 moment it becomes the nation's command center. and vice president cheney is hidden around in there, again, with very limited technology. the technology in that day, in the bunker, was so limited that he could actually turn the volume up on both the video teleconference and the tv. so be sitting there sort of all day trying to decide and my listening to the video teleconference or am i listening to the tv? because i can't do both. ..
never spoken publicly before to me. he told me in the book the story of that conversation where he understood the moment if this of what he was asking. if he gets permission from cheney, then he goes back and asks cheney repeatedly, again and again for permission to turn down the hijacked airliners. he wants to be clear there is no ambiguity on either the vice president or the end of the pentagon about what their orders are. finally the vice president gets angry at him and says, yes, i, i already told you. shoot down the hijacked airlines. that order end up getting transmitted. rushed into the sky that day.
the part of this improvised response, we were prepared. we were not planning, we did not have any plans or procedures for an attack that came within our borders. at andrews air force base outside d.c., heather, penny and mark are the two fighter pilots scrambled into the air. both of of their planes without any weapons at all, they understand as they are racing out to their planes on the tarmac that they are being sent out on a, causey mission. if they encounter a hijacked airliner, the one weapon that they have is their own fighter jet. they understand that if they are successful that day, neither one of them will return to base.
they are shouting back and forth across the tarmac as they load themselves into the planes. you aim for the cockpit, i will aim for the tail. they rush into the sky. this is where, again, you have to realize what everyone is dealing with that. sort of become these huge gaps in the story of the day and the difference between the impact that people actually have and the experience that they are having. none of the people involved in this understand that it is all over. vice president cheney gives the shoot down order at 12:00 a.m. the best the 9/11 commission can untangle is somewhere between 1012 and 1018 that morning.
they don't even get into the sky. their fighters don't take off until about 1030. of course, united airlines flight 93 crashed at three crashed at 10:03 a.m. they don't know that. they don't know that there are no further hijacked planes in the sky. the whole thing is over before the fighter jets even get there. for much of that morning, we did not really know what we had done. we did not really understand whether the attacks were still unfolding. it was not until about 4:00 o'clock that afternoon, eastern time, that the last plane was grounded, u.s. airways flight from madrid was the last plane, last commercial plane grounded that day. ultimately, the country realizes that it is actually all over. what we do not know is what is coming the next day. what is coming on nine/12. what is coming in october. if you had asked president bush
on 912 and told him sort of the following two true facts, i don't know which he would have found more surprising. in the next eight teen years, al qaeda would never successfully attack the u.s. homeland again or before the 18th anniversary of 9/11, the successor would invite the taliban to camp david both of those facts would seem completely inconceivable to him on the morning of 912. trying to go back and capture that confusion, that fear, i think is the story we need to make sure that we remember as we talk about 9/11 going forward. trying to hand off to a new generation. the world that we created out of that emotion.
i will leave it there. take a couple of questions. dive a little bit deeper into any of this as you all would like. [applause] we have a microphone over here if anyone has a question. >> just a chance for mike to run over. okay. i will repeat. awesome presentation. very emotional. you talk about some of the luck and the fate that people have experienced. how about your conversations that i think you had with some of the folks, for example, at logan that interacted. >> yes.
so, the question was, a section in the book that deals with -- or that follows the ticket clerks who check in the hijackers on the morning of 9/11 the hijackers, of course, check, check in at newark, in boston and for reasons that are still sort of unclear to us all these years later, two of them check-in in portland and they take this early morning commuter jet into boston before picking up the hijacked plane. in some ways, it is, one of the
things that is so hard, actually, one of the characters, they are all real people, it was a new york city firefighter. he was evacuating the north tower. he felt that he could hear the spooky music playing. the sort of spooky music that plays just before the monster arrives in the movie. the thing jumps out from behind the door. one of the things that become so clear in this book, you go back and look at this, all of these moments where you want to reach through the pages and scream, don't get on the plane or don't do that. one of the most poignant is actually the story of the ticket clerks that morning. because they talk about how they
actually went to extra effort to get the hijackers on the plane. they did their jobs. the hijackers were running late. mohammed was running late. they see these passengers come in. they have first-class tickets. okay. no, we can still get you on board. you must go now. you will miss your plane. it sort of becomes this moment where you sort of think about how different the world would be and the way that things would have unfolded an alternate futures and alternate universes. he talks about how, you know, one of the things that i do try to capture in the book throughout is, 911 is not over. for the people who lived it, for
us as a country, this is still something we are wrestling with. the clerk talks about how he really sort of suffered this mental anguish afterwards. how he just sort of did not feel like there was any room for him in the grief of 9/11. he would sort of try to go to these support groups and then he would be like, well, all right, you are 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.
911 is still something that we are struggling with thinking about in the mental anguish in the ptsd through it. one of the port authority police officers, she told me there were only two people rescued from underneath the towers. will and his sergeant. they were the stars of that movie that some of you may have seen, world trade center with nicholas cage. talking about how, for him, the day that he needs ptsd will be the day that he is put in the ground. for him, he understands that this is something he will live with for his entire life.
i don't actually mean, he is one of the most inspirational people i have met in the course of this. he was trapped under the towers until about 11:00 o'clock that night. the three other officers who were with the port authority team all killed in the class around him. he and john lived. he talks about how, you know, he goes around any talks to schoolkids. inmates and addicts. he talks about this experience. i had 220 stories of the world trade center fall on top of me. but we all in our lives have our world trade centers that fall on us. for some of us, it's a loss of a family member. for some of us, us, it's the loss of a job. for some of us, thinking we can't even make it to the mid-
term next week. for him, his messages, it is all about how you handled the world trade center when it falls on you. of course, you know, when i say we are still living with 9/11, we are still also seeing the unfolding of the deaths thereafter. this summer we actually marked one of the main characters in the book and was the highest ranking new york city fire over facial to survive that day. the morning after he becomes chief of the department for fdny today he is actually the fire commissioner. this summer he announced the death of the 200 firefighter from the world trade center related injuries and diseases.
a department that saw 343 people died that day, they have now lost two thirds of that number in the years since. down here. >> during your research, did you come across the type of flight instruction with these hijackers ? i heard that they were concerned about flying, but very little interest in landing. did that come out in your research? the type of instruction that they took that maybe we should have picked up on? >> this particular book does not deal with that. it is very highly focused on 9/11 itself. my previous work, i sort of covered some of that in my fbi research and writing before. again, you sort of, when we look
back with the hindsight of what was available afterwards, there were multiple opportunities that we could have had as a country to disrupt those paths. you know, one of the reasons we actually know on 9/11 that is is an al qaeda attack that quickly is to of the hijackers on the manifest are people we know are al qaeda and the cia had known were inside the united states and it never told the fbi. the fbi had been fighting to get access that summer to those two names in the cia would not turn them over. there is a lot of those types of things that do unfold of course, when you are talking to people who have no memory of life
before 9/11, it is equally sounding to them. in 2001 you could you could carry knives on board. you know, that sort of, people are like how did the planes get hijacked. they just cared some nice on board. everyone today is like why on earth were you allowed to carry a knife aboard on a plane. i can't even bring my water bottle on the plane anymore. that falls into the category of things we forget about how much 9/11 changed. we just never considered a plane as a missile before. the air traffic controllers that morning, they are concerned because of the hijacking. they are going through their standard protocols and saying, you know, let's have the plane
fly wherever it wants to landed and we will negotiate with them. and then, you know, the hostages get off and they get their ransom money. it is just sort of that mind set it is so hard to capture today. of course, you know, what makes flight 93 different than the first three is it was 45 minutes late. thank god for for airport congestion in newark which is the one thing that is always constant in american life. the plane takes off from newark 45 minutes later than it is supposed to, which means that when the passengers on board start calling down to the ground to say that they have a plane that's been hijacked, their family members are telling them about the twin towers and about the pentagon. they realize what has happened
and they realize that they need to take the plane back or they will become the next missile. a question backup in here. yeah? >> describing it very eloquently. i just cannot help but think back to pearl harbor when the last time we were attacked. i was wondering if you could reflect on that and how that impacted the country as similar to what 9/11 did? >> i think that it is true that when you look at american history that there are sort of three moments that each generation subsequently has burned into them.
pearl harbor, the kennedy assassination and 9/11. when you look back, those of you in the audience, in the years after pearl harbor, pearl harbor day was a real thing. it was not quite a national holiday, but it was the day that was marked and observed. you did not schedule super fun things to take place on decembe. in the same way today. we don't try to voice large celebratory events on 9/11. next generation with kennedy assassination.
i have a 1-year-old daughter. for her, 9/11 will be as removed historically as the kennedy assassination was to me for someone born in 1981. to me, i am a history buff. the kennedy assassination could not be more ancient history. i write about it as real history i covered the 50th anniversary of the kennedy assassination. the idea is sort of for my daughter. 9/11 will be as weirdly removed to her, unimaginable to me because i can tell you every day, every minute of that day as it unfolded for me. i have this incredibly boring
story about eating breakfast in college. when you talk to -- remember one of the things that i sort of remember about people telling stories about parents or grandparents talking about pearl harbor day, they talk about it still in the present tense. they talk about it as, you know, i was here. i was doing this. we did that. in many ways, the way we tell our own 9/11 stories in this generation. >> last question. down here. [inaudible] >> yes. you might the thinking of two
different people. rick was this incredible -- both of these people are incredible, larger than life characters. rick, former reddish paratrooper turned vietnam vet who was the director of security for morgan stanley. morgan stanley, one of the firms that gets religion about evacuation planning after the 93 bombing in the twin towers. he leaves this incredible evacuation of morgan stanley from the south tower before the opening minutes. ultimately saves hundreds of lives of morgan stanley
employees. ultimately loses his own life as he and two of his other security personnel sort of stay in the building to go four x four to make has evacuated. and then there was john o'neill. who was the fbi's lead al qaeda investigator and had led the hunt for osama bin laden through the kenya and tanzania bombings. again, coming up with the fate and the lock. start some early september as the director of security for the world trade center. dies in the tower, the south
tower during its collapse that morning. there is sort of, on thursday, i was speaking at the 9/11 museum in new york. talking with the last person that saw john o'neill alive. who was another fbi agent. you know, sort of this incredibly, incredibly tragic story of this guy who really, more than anyone in the u.s. government is ringing the alarm bell of al qaeda. it is not listened to. read tires and frustration from the fbi in august 2001. thinks he is throwing in the fight and then osama bin laden
comes to him two weeks later. >> hank you all for coming. i will be out in the lobby. >> we have a change for today. we have the exhibit. one, unfortunately, there will be no cookies and coffee tonight. [laughter] sorry. also, we will have the book signing table here on stage. please go by your books. cue up in line along the side. again, it was brilliant. it really was. [applause]
three day book tv weekends. here is a look at what is airing tonight and prime time. leading a conversation on the rise and impact of whistleblowers in the united states. bob barr looks back at the clinton impeachment process. an author discussion about warfare in the 21st century. recent norwich military writer symposium in vermont. prime time starting at 8:30 p.m. eastern on c-span two book tv. check your program guide for more information. >> on our author interview program, former chancellor of d.c. public schools interview nancy wexler about problems in the system and how to fix them. here's a portion of the program.
>> a long history of politics interfering with the effort to get content into the classroom. it has come from the left and the right. maybe more from the right, historically. that has led to a lack of specificity. certainly at the national level. we have a common core standard which, you know, voluntary. states can states can choose whether or not to adopt them. forty-six states at one point had adopted them. some of them now have something else, but they are very similar. a lot of people think that that is a curriculum. those standards are curriculum and they have content. some of the opposition is premised on that. they mention a few foundational texan there. there is in the literacy very
standards no specification of content. they really read like a list of skills. tucked into this material, if you want students to be able to have these standards, you have have to build their knowledge that exposes them to topics in history. many people are not aware of that language being there. even those that are may have difficulty responding to it because they may be caught in a system that is not set up to respond to it. we got that scent of standards that has that content because of previous battles that i talk about in the book, we got to be like a media circus kind of about the national history standards. everybody is kind of shied away from specifying content. if you don't specify content, you get this real vagueness and
you get this focus on skills because people look at the standards and think that's all i need to do. i do think that there are ways to avoid these political battles there is an increasing number of districts and classes around the country that are adopting fairly newly developed content. six or seven of them out there now. some of them have a more social justice orientation. some of them have a more western culture orientation. i have not heard about a lot of political battles over these elementary curricula. i think to some extent it is a red herring. the controversies that i have heard about have been raised about novels that are already being taught in a lot of elementary schools. touching on things that some parents are wild about. i think the bottom line is we
cannot let our fear of political battle prevent us from giving the kids who need access to knowledge the most and they cannot prevent us from getting kids that access. >> to watch the rest of this program, visit our website at book email@example.com and click on the afterwards tab at the top of the page. [inaudible] >> good evening. can everyone hear me? welcome. my name is kai bird. i am the director. over the past 12 years, the leavy center has awarded 44 major fellowships