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tv   Garrett Graff The Only Plane in the Sky  CSPAN  November 13, 2021 6:07am-7:30am EST

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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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 published and ultimately scores and finally hundreds of letters from readers of people sharing their own stories of 9/11, and their own reactions.
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probably for 9/11 this year this is the first year when you have college students arriving on campuses across the country born after 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 again, part of this improvised response. we weren't prepared. we did not have any plans or
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procedures for an attack that came from within our borders. andrews air force base in dc heather penny and mark sass will with two fighter pilot scrambled into beer, 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 on a, quasi-mission. if they encounter a hijacked airliner the one weapon they have their own fighter jet. they understand if they are successful that day, neither of them will return to base. they are citing -- shouting back and forth across the tarmac, you aim to the cockpit, i will aim for the tail and they rush into the sky and this
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is where you have to realize the confusion everyone is dealing with that day, this huge gap in the story of the day, the difference between the impact people actually have and the experience they are having. what none of the people involved in this understand is that it is all over. vice president cheney gives the shootdown order at 10:12 that morning, the 9/11 commission can untangle, he gave the order sometime between 10:12 and 10:18 that whatever penny and mark sass until don't even get into the sky until 10:30 and of course united airlines flight 93 crashed at 10:03 in
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shanksville, they don't know there are no further hijacked planes in the sky, the whole thing is over before the fighter jets even get there. and yet for much of that morning we didn't really know what we had done, we didn't really understand whether the attacks were still unfolding. it wasn't until about 4:00 that afternoon eastern time that the last plane, us airways flight from madrid was the last commercial plane that day and ultimately the country realizes that it is actually all over but what we don't know is what is coming the next day, what is coming on 9:12, what is coming in october and if you had asked resident bush on 9:12, told him
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the following two true 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 us homeland again, or that for the eighteenth anniversary of 9/11 his successor would invite the taliban to camp david. both of those facts would seem clearly inconceivable to him on the morning of 912. and trying and capture that confusion, that fear is something we need to remember as we talk about 9/11 going forward and hand to a new generation the world we created out those that. i will leave it there for questions and dive a little deeper into any of the next
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few. [applause] >> microphone over here if anyone has a question. yes. >> just a chance for the mic to run over. i will repeat. awesome presentation and very emotional. you talk about the look and the fate people experience that day. what about conversations you have had with folks at logan that interacted with the terrorists. >> guest: this is -- the
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question, there is a section in the book that follows the picket clerks who check in the hijackers the morning of 9/11, the hijackers check-in in new work at dulles, in boston, and for reasons that are still unclear to us all these years later two of them check in in portland and take this early morning commuter jet into boston before picking up the hijacks plane. in some ways one of the things that is so -- one of the characters, they are all real people but one of the people in the book talks about this, new
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york city firefighter as he was evacuating the north tower he felt he could hear the spooky music playing, the spooky music that plays just before the monster arrives in the movie or the thing jumps out from behind the door, one of the things that is so clear in this book is all of these moments you want to reach through the pages and scream don't get on the plane and don't do that. one of the most poignant is the story of the ticket clerks that morning because they talk about how they actually went to extra effort to get the hijackers on
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the plane. they did their jobs. the hijackers were running late. mohammed atta was running late and they see these passengers come in with first-class tickets and they are like we can still get you on board and he says in the book, you must go now, you will miss your plane and it becomes this moment, think about how different the world would be, the way things would have unfolded in alternate futures, alternate universes and he talks about, one of the things i tried to capture in the book throughout, 9/11 is not over. for the people who lived it, as a country this is something where wrestling with, the clerk
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talks about how he really sort of suffered this mental anguish afterwords and how he just didn't feel there was any room for him in the grief of 9/11, he would try to go to these support groups and then he would be like you are saying you lost a family member. what do i say? i let the hijackers on the plane, he has this thing where every time someone says i lost my husband or i lost my mother he hears you killed my husband, you killed my mother. 9/11 is still something we are struggling with, thinking about
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in the mental anguish and ptsd that has unfurled through it and will a no, one of the port authority police officers, there were only two people rescued from underneath the towers, wilhelminoh, the star of world trade center with nicholas cage, talks about how with him, the day he beat ptsd is the day he's put in the ground. for him, he understands this is something he is going to live with his entire life. i don't actually mean -- he's one of the most inspirational people i met in the course of this. he was trapped under the towers
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until 11:00 that night, the three other officers who were with his port authority team, killed in the collapse around made he and john mclaughlin. he talks to schoolkids, inmates and addicts now and talks about this experience. i had 220 stories of the world trade center fall on top of me but we all have our world trade center's that fall on us and for some of us it is the loss of a family member, for some it is loss of a job, for some of us it is thinking we can't even make it through the midterms next weekend for him his message is is all about how you handle the world trade center
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when it falls on you. that is what ends of mattering, but when i say we are still living with 9/11, we are also seeing the unfolding of the deaths thereafter. this summer we marked - dan -- one of the main characters in the book and was the highest ranking new york city fire official to survive that day, the morning after 9/11 he becomes chief of the department for fdny and today is the fire commissioner. he announced this summer he announced the death of the 200 firefighter from world trade center related injuries and diseases. for a department that saw 343 people die that day they have now lost 2 thirds of that
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number in the years since. down here. >> during your research that you come across the type of flight instruction these hijackers received? i heard they were concerned about flying but very little interest in landing, did that come out in your research of the type of instruction they took, that maybe we should have picked up on? >> this particular book doesn't deal with that. it's very tightly focused on 9/11 itself. my previous work i sort of covered some of that, in my fbi research, when we look back with the hindsight available "after words" there were multiple opportunities we could
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have had is a country to disrupt those attacks and one of the reasons we know on 9/11 that it is an al qaeda attack that quickly is the two of the hijackers on the manifest are people we know are al qaeda and the cia had actually known were inside the united states and never told the fbi, and the fbi had been fighting to get access that summer to those names and they would not turn them over. there's a lot of those types of things. and one of the things when talking to people who have no memory of life before 9/11 that is sort of equally confounding to them is the idea that in 2000 when you can carry knives
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on board. people are like how did the plane get hijacked, the hijackers carry knives were you allowed to carry a knife on board the plane? i can't even bring my water bottle on the plane. that again falls into the category of things we forget about how much 9/11 changed but you saw in that excerpt we never considered a plane as a missile before. the air traffic controllers were concerned because of the hijacking but they were going through standard protocols saying let's clear the traffic away, the plane will fly wherever the plane wants to fly and land and we will negotiate with them, hostages get off and they get their ransom money.
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that mindset is hard to capture today what makes flight 93 different from the first three as it was 45 minutes late. thank god for airport congestion in newark which is the one thing that is always constant in american life so plane takes off 45 minutes later than it is supposed to which means that when the passengers on board start calling down to the ground to say their plane has been hijacked, their family members are telling them about the twin towers and the pentagon and they realize what has happened and that they need to take the plane back or they will become the next missile.
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back here. >> can you describe what happened on 9/11 very awfully and eloquently. i can't help but think back to pearl harbor, the last time we were attacked and wonder if you could reflect on that and how that impacted the country similar to what 9/11 did. >> it is true that when you look at american history, there are three moments that sort of each generation subsequently has burned into them. pearl harbor, the kennedy assassination, and 9/11.
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and when you look back, those of you in the audience of a certain vintage may remember that in the years after pearl harbor, pearl harbor day was a real thing. it was not quite a national holiday but it was a day that was marked and observed, the type of thing you didn't schedule superfun things to take place on december 7th, the same way that today we tried to avoid large celebratory events on 9/11. that memory is replaced the next generation with the kennedy assassination. one of the sort of weirdest realizations i have in this book, i have a one-year-old daughter and for her, 9/11 will
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be as removed historically as the kennedy assassination was to me or someone born in 1981 and to me, i am a history buff. the kennedy assassination could not be more ancient history. i write about it as real history. i cover the fiftieth anniversary of the kennedy assassination and the idea, for my daughter, 9/11 will be as weirdly removed to her, it is unimaginable to me because i can tell you every minute of that day as it unfolded for me. i have the story about eating breakfast in college and that is one of the things, when you talk to -- maybe your parents
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in the room who were alive for pearl harbor remember it one of the things i remember about people telling stories about parents or grandparents talking about pearl harbor days they talk about it still in the present tense as they talk about it as i was here, i was doing this, we did that, that in many ways is the way we tell our own 9/11 stories in this generation. last question. down here. >> army veterans - the director of port authority and security. >> you might be conflating 2 different people both of whom it vote a couple pages to in the book. rick was sort of this
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incredible, both of these people are incredible larger than life characters. former british paratrooper turned vietnam that who was director of security for morgan stanley and morgan stanley, one of the firms that gets religion about evacuation planning after the 93 bombing of the twin towers. and he leads this incredible evacuation of morgan stanley from the south tower in the opening minutes of the first attack and saved hundreds of lives of morgan stanley employees and loses his own life. as he and his other security
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personnel stay in the building to go floor by floor and make sure everyone has evacuated. then, john o'neill, a name familiar to those of you who have read or watched the looming tower series, the fbi's lead al qaeda investigator who led the hunt for osama bin laden in the tanzanian embassy bombing in 1998, the uss cole bombing in 2000 and coming up with the fate and the luck. in august of 2001, retires from the fbi and starts in early september is director of security for the world trade center and dies in the tower, in the south tower that morning
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and on thursday, in new york, talking with the last person who saw john o'neill alive who was another fbi agent. this incredibly tragic story of this guy more than anyone in the us government is ringing the alarm bell of al qaeda, is not listened to, retires and frustration from the fbi in august of 2001. thinks he is throwing in the fight and osama bin laden comes to him two weeks later. thank you for coming. i will be out in the lobby --
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>> we have a change for today. we have the 3-d exhibit, we have some changes. there will be no cookies and coffee tonight, sorry and also we are going to have the book signing table here on the stage so please go buy your books and q up in line along the side and again, it was brilliant, it really was.
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[applause] ♪♪ >> wall street journal reporter michael bender looked at 2020 reelection campaign, here's a portion of that conversation. >> there is no shortage of trump books, you could fill a library with books about trump, the last 30, 40 years. i have written over 1000 stories about trump in the wall street journal and wanted to give people something, a reason to keep turning the pages here
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so this book is the only one to date that explains trump with inside the room details from the oval office under the hood, exclusive memos, text messages and decision-making processes and another unique piece of this is the people who go to 30, 40, 50 rallies. what i wanted to do was understand a little more about this movement. what about them as people, that had been coming back again and again to effectively see the same show and what it told us about trump that he could elicit this kind of energy. what i found. i was very lucky these folks trusted me to tell their story
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and i will be grateful, enriched my reporting and understanding of this movement and our country right now. these are folks who had a lot of time on their hands, recently retired or almost retired, never had kids or estranged from their families and trump, they were drawn to his energy, his celebrity the same way that a lot of people were drawn to obama. some of these folks had voted for obama before they voted for trump-based on them wanting to end endless wars but they started going to these rallies and saw the same people in a way trump made their lives bigger, they started staying at
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each other's houses on the road and splitting hotel rooms. one woman met another man, they went to hong kong for a day, flew from michigan to hong kong for data march in opposition to the extradition law trump opposed and then flew home. the story of 2020 is for them they are misled, whether it is covid or election processes or fox news. what happens, the world has gotten smaller by the end of the year. when fox calls the election in arizona and across the country, trump claims fraud these people
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just turned off fox news which had been background noise of their lives for years, was gone and they get their news from a smaller and smaller number of sources, some of the people start to question a little bit, some met fail ends on the campaign trail in 2020 and i think it is still hard for me to understand in 2020, to tell the story of trump more richly but even now, even more so now is a pressing question, not just for the republican party but the country, trump drew thousands of people to ohio in june, thousands more to florida last month and it is important
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to understand who these people are on a human level that they keep coming out for trump despite january 6th, despite what we know about january 6th, more than 500 people have been charged, people starting to receive prison sentences. it's not antifa, these are trump supporters and yet trump still maintains a strong hold on the party. >> to watch the rest of this program visit, use the search box at the top of the page to look for michael bender, frankly we did win this election. >> watch booktv now on sunday on c-span2 or find it online anytime, television for serious readers.


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