Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11

It’s causing me great pain to put down this book long enough to do a little blogging.

It’s mesmerizing.

All the juicy details on 9/11, many of them not in the commission’s report.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. While most Americans watched the 9/11 attacks on television, the guardians of the nation’s air-control and air-defense systems had the unenviable task of trying to halt them. Working from interviews and tape archives, Spencer’s minute-by-minute chronicle recreates their heroics in nerve-racking detail. In her telling, air-traffic controllers panicked as a seemingly routine—and quickly spotted—initial hijacking metastasized into a coordinated terror attack of unknown size and direction, and tried to divine which of thousands of planes on their radars had become guided missiles. Airline pilots dodged through suddenly chaotic skies while assuring suspicious control towers that they weren’t hijackers themselves. Meanwhile, Air National Guard fighter pilots, hobbled by bad communications and misdirection, scrambled to defend against a murky threat. (Spencer’s sources insist there was a fighter in position to stop United 93, had its passengers not brought it down, by having the pilot ram the airliner with his F-16.) Spencer, a flight instructor, expertly elucidates the complexities and pitfalls of American aviation as it faced a staggering challenge. (June 3)
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Product Description
On the azure blue morning of 9/11 the skies were pronounced "severe clear," in the parlance of airline pilots; a gorgeous day for flying. Nearly 5,000 flights were cruising the skies over America when FAA Operations Manager Ben Sliney arrived at the Command Center for his first day on that job. He could never have anticipated the historic drama that was about to unfold as Americans who found themselves on the front lines of a totally unprecedented attack on our homeland sprang into action to defend our country and save lives.In this gripping moment-to-moment narrative, based on groundbreaking reporting, Lynn Spencer brings the inspiring true drama of their unflinching and heroic response vividly to life for the first time, taking us right inside the airliner cockpits and control towers, the fighter jets and the military battle cabs. She makes vital corrections to the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report, and reveals many startling, utterly unknown elements of the story.As a commercial pilot herself, for whom the attacks hit terribly close to home, she knew that the true scope and nature of the response so brilliantly improvised that morning by those in the thick of the action — with so little guidance from those at the highest levels — had not at all been captured by the news coverage or the 9/11 Commission. To get to the truth, she went on a three-year quest, interviewing hundreds of key players, listening to untold hours of tapes and pouring through voluminous transcripts to re-create each heart-stopping moment as it happened through their eyes and in their words as the drama unfolded.From the shocking moment at 7:59 a.m. that American 11 fails to respond to a controller’s call, until the last commercial flight has safely landed and military jets rule the skies, all Americans will find themselves deeply moved and amazed by the grace and fierce determination of these steely men and women as they draw on all of their exquisite training to grasp, through the fog of war, what is happening, put their lives on the line, and mount an astonishing response.This beautifully crafted and deeply affecting account of the full story of their courageous actions is a vital addition to the country’s understanding of a day that has forever changed our nation.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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