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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Mere words cannot begin to describe the gripping reality that Ms. Spencer captured in this book. From the cockpits of jet fighters, to the flight deck of the airliners, to those who tried to make sense of it all from behind radar screens, Ms. Spencer captured the anxiety, frustration, complexity, and at times, feeling of helplessness of all those who tried desperately to protect this country. This isn't a book so much about the what happened nearly as much as it is about those whose blood, sweat and tears went into their attempts to stop it and then come to grips with it. Having spent over 3 years of her life dedicated to this project, Ms. Spencer went to the people and listened to their stories, heard the quiver in their voices and saw the pain in their eyes as they spoke. This book takes you there. It puts you on the "inside" to see first hand what was happening and allows you to witness the many obstacles that had to somehow be overcome to fight against a never before seen enemy using a never before heard of tactic against American civilians, on American soil. I can tell you that Ms. Spencer got it right and tells it in a manner anyone can understand and appreciate. She captured the heart and soul of everyone involved.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2008
This is one of those rare books that are non-fiction, but pull you in like a great novel- just like you were there! The author, Lynn Spencer has done a superlative job of putting together the facts in a way that even though we know the eventual outcome we still want to read all the way to the end.
When I first began reading, I thought the story would center on the four hijacked flights- but those stories have already been largely told. Rather, she tells the "big picture" of how those four incidents touched off an incredible series of events that affected tens of thousands of people that day and how individuals in extremely tense and difficult circumstances made the decisions that kept a very bad situation from becoming catastrophic.
It can be seen in retrospect that our air traffic control system had many faults in dealing with this crisis, but it was the individuals involved that rose above the technical difficulties and "standard operating procedures" to make our skies safe that awful day.
This is their story and we all owe a debt of gratitude to them for what they accomplished- all of the air controllers, civilian and military, leadership on the ground and of course all of the many, many pilots and aircrew who had to deal with something completely extraordinary.
This book brought it all back and made me feel many of the same emotions I felt on 9/11.
Personally, I feel we all need to remember what took place that day so that it will NEVER happen again.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 1, 2008
Lynn Spencer's "Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11" is an engrossing, compelling book about a tremendously complex event. Based upon numerous first-hand accounts and interviews, "Touching History" covers in great detail the entire breadth of 9/11 in the air: the air traffic control system, the airports, the airplanes in the sky, the air defense jets scrambled to respond to an unprecendented event.

Spencer herself is a commercial pilot and flight instructor, so she brings a particular sensitivity and understanding to a complex subject, and she tells the story superbly well. Along the way she addresses a number of misconceptions about what happened, and did not happen, that day. The depth of detail is extraordinary, rendering an unusually vivid picture of events. "Touching History" is filled not with cold, hard facts, but with moments of great human drama. In the end, I was left with a strong feeling of admiration for those men and women -- pilots, air crew, air controllers, National Guard pilots -- who acted so swiftly to bring manageable order out of extreme chaos
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I picked this book up at Costco two days ago having heard nothing about it. It tells the story of the response to the 9/11 attack as it was improvised by the military, the airline pilots and the air traffic controllers. A little bit of it was shown in the movie "United 93" but in that film it appeared that the military was completely ineffective. In fact, the military response was rapid and effective but the nation's air defense command was fighting to stay in existence at the time and had extremely limited capability. In an afterward to the book, General Larry Arnold tells how he was informed by a superior that, "If everyone would turn off CNN, there wouldn't be a threat from Osama bin Laden." General Arnold was, at the time, commander of the Continental U.S. North American Air Defense Command and the statement was made two weeks before 9/11. On September 7, 2001, the Secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the USAF decided to cut off funding for air defense. On 9/11, there were only 14 jet fighters available in the entire U.S. to be scrambled for an alert and all air defense units were National Guard, many of whose pilots were also airline pilots.

In spite of this critical weakness, by two hours after the first airliner hit the World Trade Center, there was a combat air patrol over Washington. They were there in time to stop United 93, had that been necessary. The rapid response by Air Force, Air National Guard and FAA personnel, often using telephones to relay information between incompatible communication systems, was totally improvised by the people involved. This story has not been told before and it makes a gripping tale.

It was not all locking the barn door after the horse was gone, either. In one of her accounts, the pilot of a grounded United Airlines flight is informed by his senior flight attendant that four young Arab men are seated in first class. The flight is evacuated and the four men disappear. Later, FBI agents find box cutters and al Qeada material in their abandoned luggage. My brother-in-law works for United Airlines and tells me that he has been told that as many as 11 flights had potential hijackers aboard that day and the rapid grounding of flights may have prevented other hijackings.

The author is an airline pilot and she has interviewed hundreds of people involved in the story. She deprecates her own writing skills but the book reads like a Tom Clancy novel. The most important fact here is that her story is true. I recommend it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2008
For many of us in the military that struggled that day to help put an end to the aviation madness that took place, had stories and wanted them told. We didn't want recognition or reward, we simply wanted the American public to know what happened behind the closed gates of our bases, how hard we all tried to stop what was going on, and above all else, to not let it happen again. Lynn Spencer had a vision that our stories had value and must be shared. No one else out there was listening to us, asking the difficult questions about how we felt, or gathered the true facts the 9/11 Commission missed or ignored. She knew she had one shot to get this right...and she sure did. There is no other book like this and dare say, never will be. Every American should read this!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2008
Touching History is the fast-paced and riveting story of what was happening in the skies on 9/11--a story that up to now has never been told. Lynn Spencer takes us into into the military and FAA control centers and into the cockpits of commercial airliners and military jets that day as everyone struggles to first understand what is happening and then what to do about it. The story is not as much about technology or military jargon as much as the human element. It weaves tales of heroism and bravery while also doing a great job of capturing the confusion in the skies that fateful day. Be forewarned--this book is hard to put down once started!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2008
I heard Ms. Spencer interviewed on NPR and thought the book would interesting. Last night I decided to read few pages before bed. I finished the book at 4:00am. Ms. Spencer has put together a concise account of what was happening in all areas of flight on September 11 with clarity and compassion. She is able to convey the feelings of disbelief, frustration, horror, fear, and bravery that the events of the day brought forth. She does this without an agenda or bias.
Great Book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Just after 9/11 there was a feeling that the tragedy was to close to us to get a grip on it and few books were published detailing what happaned and tragedy and bravery that took place. With the publication of Let's Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage and the release of United 93 (Widescreen Edition) there began finally to be an outpouring of stories from the events. But the Iraq War and the self-hate of books like Blowback, Second Edition: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire obscured 9/11 and there were attempts to make people forget. With the publication of this timely and important book we are finally treated to one piece of the history of that day.

Here is the story of what took place in the skies above and on the ground as Air Traffic Control and the Air force and pilots and passengers experiences that day. This is an amazing and wonderful minute by minute account of the people, sounds and terrors that took place, a true portrait of America at her best, showing all the small heroes who made up that day. A very important contribution and one that will stand the test of time.

Seth J. Frantzman
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2008
To understand what happened on September 11, 2001 you must read this book.

This superb book, written by a pilot, ties together all the different government responses to September 11 into a very interesting and readable book.

The book sheds new light on the numerous unprecedented actions taken that day by many different agencies and pilots.

Touching History begins the morning of September 11, 2001 with air traffic control sensing that something is wrong. The book tells how the FAA, NORAD, Air National Guard, Air Force, Department of Transportation, Secret Service, White House, Department of Defense and the pilots handled and responded to the events of September 11.

You will understand the thoughts and emotions of ground controllers, administrators, military pilots and commercial pilots as they respond to the surprising and confusing events of 9/11.

The book examines the mindset of those on the ground and those in the air and provides a broad overview of how the major players responded that day.

There were air traffic controllers preventing mid air collisions, airline pilots trying to land at evacuating airports, fighter pilots rushing to battle, agencies trying to communicate with one another and local commanders trying to set up protective zones over New York City and Washington D.C.

Tough decisions about which fighter jets to send up and with which weapons and their orders are discussed in depth.

Touching History will provide an exhaustive in depth understanding of the events of September 11. Other than listening to the released NORAD tapes, which is recommended, this is a definitive book of events that day.

While some Generals say that the 9/11 report has a political agenda, this book gives a better historical and accurate look at who made what decisions and what their thought processes were.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2008
I spent 10 years as a weapons controller ("scope dope") in NORAD and I researched the events of 911 for my book "A Glint in Time", but Lynn Spencer did the full job. There are things that you can still wonder about, but this work provides a great deal of expert insight. See my video review for more details. --Frank Derfler [...]
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