The very first extensive oral history of 9/11 pieces together the unprecedented stories of the day that claimed 2,977 lives, from the last words of victims on hijacked United Flight 93 to the scenes in a Cold War bunker in the White House.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, hears from 480 people and collects 5,000 relevant oral histories 18 years after the tragedy.
Writer Garrett M. Graff helps the terrifying memories of the day when hijackers used planes to overthrow the twin towers of the World Trade Center another to attack the Pentagon.
A fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, flared up in flames as heroic passengers fought back to knock it down in the Pennsylvania countryside before it could hit another striking target, probably in Washington.
The two towers of the World Trade Center dump smoke in New York. A new book hears from 480 people and 5000 relevant oral histories 18 years after the day on which 2,977 lives progressed
Firefighters work under the destroyed window pillars, the vertical pillars that once stood opposite the outer walls of the towers of the World Trade Center
On board flight 93
Flight 93 went up in flames as heroic passengers fought hijackers to take it down to the Pennsylvania countryside before it could hit another target.
Passenger Tom Burnett said to his wife Deena: & We wait until we are across a rural area. We're going to take the plane back. & # 39;
After he begged him not to do anything that endangered him, Tom replied: & # 39; If they crash this plane, we have to do something. & # 39;
She said: & # 39; I saw from the caller ID that it was Tom & # 39; s phone. I was relieved and thought that when he was calling, he was at the airport and he was fine. I said, "Tom, are you okay?"
& # 39; He said, "No, it's not me. They're in the cockpit." I told him about the World Trade Center. He hadn't known anything about it.
& # 39; He has passed on that information to the people around him. He said, "Oh my God, it's a suicide mission." & # 39;
Most of the time I just wanted to say that I love you and that I will miss you. I don't know if I'll get the chance to tell you again.
Flight 93 passenger Linda Gronlund to her sister Elsa
Verizon Airfone operator Lisa Jefferson spoke with passenger Todd Beamer who told him not to transfer him to his pregnant wife so she wouldn't get upset.
He gave her his home number and asked Lisa to call it in case something happened to him.
Jefferson said: & # 39; I could hear the commotion in the background. I heard the stewardess scream. & # 39;
Beamer asked someone on the run: & # 39; Are you ready? OK. Let's go. & # 39;
Passenger Linda Gronlund called her sister: & Elsa, it's Lin. I only have a minute. I'm on United 93. It has been hijacked by terrorists who say they have a bomb. Apparently they already flew a few planes into the World Trade Center and it seems that they also take them down [sob].
Investigation personnel search United Airlines Flight 93 crash site for debris and evidence, including aircraft flight recorder
& # 39; I just wanted to say that I love you and that I will miss you. I don't know if I'll get the chance to tell you again. & # 39;
And passenger Mark Bingham's mother, Alice Ann Hoagland, was called by her son. She remembers: & # 39; The call came at 6:37 am [Pacific Time]. He said: & # 39; Mom, this is Mark Bingham & # 39 ;. I knew he was a little nervous because he used his last name. He said: & # 39; I want you to know that I love you & # 39 ;. & # 39;
In the World Trade Center
American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and killed 2,753 people.
Terrorist Mohamed Atta was aboard crashed American Airlines flight 11.
Ticket agent Mike Touhey at Portland International Jetport remembers: & I saw these two guys looking around there. I looked at the tickets. I'm going, "Whoa, first-class tickets." You will no longer see $ 2,400 tickets. The flight took less than 30 minutes. I said, "Mr. Atta, if you don't go now, you'll miss your plane." & # 39;
In New York, Herb Ouida left the house with his son Todd to go to the North Tower, where they both worked. Herb said: & # 39; As we did every morning, my son Todd and I left our house together to travel to work. I said to him: "Have a nice day, sweetheart". Those were my last words to Todd. & # 39;
New York harbor captain Peter Johansen said his passengers all thought there was an innocent reason for the first crash. He said: & honestly, I think most people thought it was a navigation accident. The reason I say that is because our ferry went on to Pier 11, the Wall Street terminal, and there were about a hundred people on board.
& # 39; Each of them got out and went to work that morning. As they walk away, envelopes and letters float down from the sky. & # 39;
A fireman disintegrates after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on September 11
American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and killed 2,753 people
At 8.46 the first plane hit the North Tower, the second crashed into the South Tower at 9.30.
Robert Small, who worked in the South Tower, said: & People on my floor were leaving. Then we decided to go back, call our families, let us know that we are doing well – still thinking that nothing would happen in the South Tower. & # 39;
Bond broker David Kravette said: “Suddenly, jet fuel shot out of the central elevator bank and hurts everywhere. People, 20 meters from me, were lifted onto this fireball and thrown through those lobby windows and burned. & # 39;
Eventually, as the smoke grew thicker, he whispered again and again, "I love you." & # 39;
Sean Rooney & # 39; s wife Beverly Eckert
Consultant Richard Eichen said that a man & # 39; died between my legs & # 39 ;.
He told investigators: & # 39; I saw an Asian man come to me from my left shoulder. He looked like he was fried. His skin hung like seaweed. He begged me to help him. He said, "Help me, help me", and then put a face plant exactly between my legs. He died between my legs. & # 39;
Sean Rooney worked in the south tower. He called his wife Beverly Eckert, who said: “When I heard his voice on the phone, I was so happy that I thought he had made it. He told me he was on the 105th floor. I knew immediately that Sean would never come home.
& # 39; He told me to give his love to his family, and then we talked about all the happiness we shared during our lifetime. Eventually, as the smoke grew thicker, he whispered again and again, "I love you." & # 39;
Joe Graziano, fireman, ladder 13, FDNY: & # 39; We boarded a truck and it seemed like the city was opening for us. We arrived there in no time. We were six & # 39; n six and I was the only one who came back. & # 39;
John P. Napolitano, 33, was a husband and father of two young daughters. He died during the 9/11 rescue.
His father told the investigators: & # 39; I knew that my son was at a rescue company and that he would probably go inside. I wanted to say to him: "Don't be a hero". After several attempts to reach him – busy, busy, busy – I called my house to see if my wife spoke to my son.
& # 39; I said, "The phone is busy and I want to tell him that he doesn't take any risks when he goes down". My wife cried and said, "He is already there".
Dr. Charles Hirsch, chief medical examiner, City of New York: & I will never forget an airplane engine in the middle of West Street and then an amputated hand. & # 39;
Writer Garrett M. Graff helps to share the terrifying memories of those aboard doomed flights, eyewitnesses in New York and White House officials. The victims' final words reveal heartbreaking calls to their loved ones
Eyewitness at the World Trade Center describes horrific scenes while people fell dead
Wesley Wong, who worked for the FBI in New York, remembered how a fireman told him to watch out for the falling bodies.
He added: & # 39; I remember crossing West Street and thought: & # 39; What did he say about falling bodies? & # 39 ;. When I got close to the building, this fireman shouted: "Run! Here comes one". I froze and looked up at that beautiful clear blue sky. I saw a man spreading out of the sky. I could not believe what I saw. & # 39;
Detective David Brink said he saw & # 39; daisy chains of people jumping hand in hand out of buildings & # 39 ;. And officer Peter Moog added: & # 39; One jumper actually hit a fireman. He was one of the first firefighters to be killed. & # 39;
William Jimeno was buried under rubble. He said: & # 39; I remember that I could take a map and my pen from my left pocket. I was able to etch into the card: "Allison, I love you". I hoped they would find it if they found my body.
& # 39; Around 8 p.m. I heard voices: & # 39; United States Marine Corps, can anyone hear us? & # 39 ;.
& # 39; They worked on me for three hours. When they pulled me out, I remember looking around and saying, "Where is everything?"
& # 39; Then a fireman said: & # 39; It's all gone, kid & # 39;. & # 39;
On flight 11
Stewardess Betty Ong called the airline's reservation line. She said to agent Winston Sadler: & uh, the cockpit is not responding. Someone has been stabbed in business class, and I think there is mace – that we cannot breathe. I think we're being hijacked.
& # 39; Our, our No1 [stewardess] has been stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. And our No5. We cannot reach the cockpit. The door will not open. Hello? & # 39;
Her colleague Madeline & # 39; Amy & # 39; Sweeney called flight services: & There is a bomb in the cockpit. The bus passengers do not know what is happening. The hijackers are of Middle Eastern descent.
& # 39; It's a fast descent. Something is wrong. I don't think the captain is in control. I see water. I see buildings. We are flying low. We fly very, very low. O my God. & # 39;
A man places his hand on a wall with pictures of missing people outside the Bellevue Hospital in New York days after 9/11
US President George W. Bush listens while White House chief of staff informs Andrew Card about a second plane hitting the World Trade Center, while Bush led a reading seminar at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida
On flight 175 of United Airlines
Passenger Brian Sweeney tries to call his wife and tell her: & Hey, Jules, this is Brian. Ah, listen. I'm on a plane that has been hijacked. If it doesn't go well, and it doesn't look right, I want you to know that I absolutely love you, I want you to do well, have good times – the same with my parents.
& # 39; I'll see you when you get here. I want you to know that I love you completely. Hello, honey. I hope to call you. & # 39;
Passenger Peter Hanson, on board with his wife and daughter, calls his father: & It gets bad, Dad. A stewardess was stabbed. They seem to have knives and clubs. They said they have a bomb.
& # 39; The aircraft makes jerky movements. I don't think the pilot is flying the plane. I think we're going down. Don't worry, Dad. If it happens, it will be very fast. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. & # 39;
Inside the Cold War bunker
President George Bush was detained on Air Force One because Washington D.C. was considered too dangerous.
Vice President Dick Cheney was taken to a bunker with other officials.
National security adviser at the time, Condoleezza Rice said: & The secret service came in and they said, "You have to go to the bunker". I remember being driven, almost moving. We had no idea where it was safe and where it was not. We did not think at that time that the White House bunker was safe. & # 39;
Cheney said: & # 39; Moments later, I was in a reinforced White House command post somewhere below. & # 39;
Vice President Dick Cheney, right, speaks by phone with President George W. Bush on September 11, 2001 at The Operations Center in the White House after the attacks. At Cheney, staff, including presidential counselor Karen Hughes, left, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are center
& # 39; Once the plane was hijacked – even though it had a load of passengers on board that was clearly not part of an attempted hijack – given what had happened in New York and the Pentagon, you really had no choice. It was not a close call, & said Vice President Dick Cheney
moke comes from the southwestern E-ring of the Pentagon on September 11th
There he gave the authority to shoot down the hijacked commercial aircraft.
Naval commander Anthony Barnes is talking about that call for the first time.
Concerned for the safety of the people on the ground, F-16 fighters were scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland under the direct order of the VP to take down the aircraft at all costs, United 93.
Cheney gave the green light for the interception to Barnes, who was in direct contact with the vice-president and the Pentagon.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, hears from 480 people and collects 5,000 relevant oral histories 18 years later after the tragedy
He said: “I asked the vice president for permission to shoot an identified hijacked commercial aircraft that question and he answered it in the affirmative.
& # 39; I asked again to be sure. & # 39; Sir, I confirm that you have given your consent? & # 39;
& # 39; For me, as a military member and pilot – I understood the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was – I wanted to make sure there was no mistake whatsoever in what was being asked.
"Without hesitation, he said affirmatively that any confirmed hijacked aircraft may be occupied and shot."
Cheney said: “Once the plane was hijacked – even though it had a load of passengers on board that was clearly not part of an attempted hijack – given what had happened in New York and the Pentagon, you really did no longer have any choice. It was not a close call. & # 39;
Josh Bolten, deputy chief of staff, White House said: & Vice President Cheney was very steadfast, very calm. He had clearly experienced crises before and didn't seem to be in shock like many of us. & # 39;
In a transcript from the book, Cheney says: & # 39; In the years that followed, I speculated that I was a different man after 9/11. I wouldn't say that. But I will freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker in the White House can affect how you see your responsibilities. & # 39;
In the air
While Commander Barnes was talking, a few F-16 fighter pilots signed up for a & # 39; suicide mission & # 39; to take down the hijacked plane.
Lt. Heather & # 39; Lucky & # 39; Penney, an F-16 pilot with the DC Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, belonged to the group of pilots who were ordered in the air for fear that the hijacked aircraft was on its way to the White House or Capitol.
The pilots were told to take down the plane without using live ammunition or missiles, effectively killing themselves and everyone on board.
Penney's mission was to intercept the hijacked aircraft on its way to Washington and destroy it as it could.
Recalling that fateful day, the rookie pilot was told that there was only one way to take the plane down.
& # 39; We wouldn't shoot it. We would ram the plane. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot, & she said.
& # 39; Fortunately, you are coming with me, & # 39; cried Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville.
Lt. Heather & # 39; Lucky & # 39; Penney, an F-16 pilot with the D.C. Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, was ordered to intercept the hijacked aircraft en route to D.C.
An arrival sign at LA Airport on 9/11 shows canceled flights around the country
Mr. Sasseville, an F-16 pilot with the US Air Force: now stationed at the Pentagon, said: & We are not training to take down planes. If you just hit the motorcycle, it can still slide and you can lead it to a goal. My thought was the cockpit or the wing. & # 39;
The rudder F-16 fighter jets passed the destroyed Pentagon, flew low and searched the sky.
& # 39; Sass and I had fully expected to intercept and take flight 93, & # 39; said Penney. & # 39; I really believed this was the last time I left. If we did it right, this would be it. & # 39;
& # 39; I addressed this moral or ethical justification of the needs of many versus the needs of a few, & # 39; Sasseville noted.
Only hours later did the couple discover that United 93 had already crashed in a field outside of Shanksville in western Pennsylvania.
The 33 passengers from Flight 93, who were traveling from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, had fought back. The passengers, crew and the hijackers all died when they took down the plane.
& # 39; The real heroes are the passengers on flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves & # 39 ;, said Penney.
& # 39; They made the decision we didn't have to make & # 39 ;, Sassville adds.
Penney spent the remainder of September 11 in the air, clearing the airspace and accompanying President Bush through the country as he flew in Air Force One.
& # 39; The real heroes are the passengers on flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves. I was just a casual witness to history, & she said.
The full interviews are part of a new book titled The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, published on September 10, 2019.
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