Out of the Blue: A Narrative of September 11, 2001


A gripping and authoritative account of the September 11th attack, its historical roots, and its aftermath

Few news stories in recent memory have commanded as much attention as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but no news organization rivaled The New York Times for its comprehensive, resourceful, in-depth, and thoughtful coverage. This effort may well emerge as the finest hour in the paper's distinguished ...

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A gripping and authoritative account of the September 11th attack, its historical roots, and its aftermath

Few news stories in recent memory have commanded as much attention as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but no news organization rivaled The New York Times for its comprehensive, resourceful, in-depth, and thoughtful coverage. This effort may well emerge as the finest hour in the paper's distinguished 150-year history.

In an unprecedented commitment, the Times assigned one of its most skilled reporters, Richard Bernstein, to turn the newspaper's brilliant and incisive reporting into a riveting narrative of September 11th. Following the lives of heroes, victims, and terrorists, Bernstein weaves a complex tale of a multitude of lives colliding in conflagration on that fateful morning. He takes us inside the Al Qaeda organization and the lives of the terrorists, from their indoctrination into radical Islam to the harrowing moments aboard the aircraft as they raced toward their terrible destiny. We meet cops and firefighters, and become intimate with some of the Trade Center workers who were lost on that day. We follow the lives of the rest of America-ordinary citizens and national leaders alike-in the hours and days after the attack.

Finally, Bernstein chronicles the nation's astonishing response in the aftermath.

No account of this singular moment in American history will be as sharp, readable, and authoritative as Out of the Blue.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Richard Bernstein and the staff of The New York Times present a clear and vivid portrait of the events of September 11, 2001, piecing together the facts from a wide variety of sources. In addition to recounting the details of that tragic and heroic day, Bernstein looks back at the origins of the Islamic extremist movement that gave birth to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization, as well as the indoctrination and training of the 9/11 hijackers.
Publishers Weekly
Veteran Times reporter and book critic Bernstein has drawn on the newspaper's staff reporting of the terrible events of September 11 to create an account that stands out for its poignancy and humanity. Focusing on the personal the victims, the perpetrators and heroes whose lives became tangled in catastrophe the book goes behind the scenes to explore the ways in which so many lives were irrevocably changed. The personal vignettes are emotional without being maudlin, informative without being polemical. We get, for instance, the stunning moment, described with admirable understatement, when Joe Disorbo at the World Trade Center, who "had been too busy surviving to contemplate the scope of the disaster... realized that he was staring into a dusty vacant sky. `Where's the building?' he asked, not quite believing the evidence of his eyes." But the book doesn't stop at the personal. It uses these stories as a jumping-off point for a comprehensive look at the terror attacks the reactions of New Yorkers, the nation and the world; the criticism of U.S. government agencies; the lingering effects of the tragedy. While some of this information has been published elsewhere, it has not been gathered so comprehensively nor has it been written so well. This powerful account deserves to be a bestseller. (Sept. 11) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
New York Times veteran Bernstein takes on the demanding job of transforming the paper's reportage on September 11 into a seamless narrative. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Two different yet effective treatments. The quality of the writing and the book's scope make Blue perhaps the best of the 9/11 anniversary volumes. Bernstein focuses on the World Trade Center attacks without slighting the disasters at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. His comprehensive view makes the connection between the Islamic fundamentalist hijackers in Pakistan in 1979 and enrollees in Florida flight schools in 2000 and 2001. Firsthand accounts of survivors' escapes from the WTC along with the self-sacrificing courage of others they witnessed mix with sketches of extraordinary lives violently cut short. Such sketches also fill Heroes, a virtual obituary/memorial to the 40 people who died attempting to thwart the actions of four hijackers. Eerily, Longman tells how some passengers opted for the flight at the last minute. His hundreds of interviews allow for both fact and speculation regarding the plane's eventual disintegration into a Pennsylvania field. Both books include photographs of the tragedies and the people involved, relate the last conversations of victims via cell or air phones, and are graphic in parts, all of which make them difficult to get through-but that's precisely why they should be read.-Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The planes came out of the blue, but their intentions were long in the making as New York Times reporter Bernstein (Dictatorship of Virtue, 1994, etc.) explicates in this taut narrative of the events, personalities, and circumstances surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001. Bernstein uses the investigative reporting of the Times staff to fashion an irresistible story of the forces that resulted in two planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He traces the roots of jihad as a doctrine, the creation of a Muslim international corps of fighters that was financed in part by the US, which was "favorably disposed to the growing band" when they were cold warriors on the front in Afghanistan. He tries to make sensible the "fetishism of martyrdom and murder" of the jihadist revival, how it evolved into a movement that targeted the corrupt, reactionary, un-Islamic regimes at home and drew a bead on the US as an important enemy, and he draws profiles of its important characters: Ayman Zawabiri, Omar Abdel Rahman, Abdullah Azzam, and Osama bin Laden. As he follows the activities of al-Qaeda, Bernstein intersperses biographical chapters on some of the people who died in the Twin Towers. Occasionally, this device feels heavy-handed, crude even in its tableau of good vs. bad, but more evident is its pathos, which can have the sting of an arrow. As bin Laden moves from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia to the Sudan and back to Afghanistan-with Bernstein charting the terrorism that followed in his wake, though with unproven connection-the US intelligence and immigration authorities are also observed, with their many lapses, oversights, and failures of communication. Finally, there areeyewitness accounts of what it was like to be inside the towers when they were hit. An excellent job of synthesizing the many voices made available through the newspaper to form a coherent and forceful narrative. (16 pp. b&w insert, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805072402
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/11/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 10.96 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

In twenty years with The New York Times, Richard Bernstein has served as bureau chief at the United Nations and in Paris, as national cultural reporter, and currently as a daily book critic. Before that, he was the Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine. He has written five books, including The Coming Conflict with China (with Ross H. Munro) and, most recently, Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment. He lives in New York City.

Howell Raines is executive editor of The New York Times.

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Read an Excerpt

By the night of September 10, all nineteen men were in their final staging areas — at hotels in Newark, in Maryland, in Boston, and in Portland, Maine. They had a final sheet of instructions provided by Atta that told them what they were supposed to do in their final night on earth. They were to shave excess hair from their bodies. They were to read al-Tawba and Anfal, the traditional war chapters in the Koran and to reflect on the things that God has promised the martyrs. "Remind your soul to listen and obey," theinstructions read. "And remember that you will face decisive situations that might prevent you from one hundred percent obedience, so tame your soul, purify, convince it, make it understand, and incite it."

Probably the men read those paragraphs and reflected on the magnificent deeds they would accomplish for the sake of God and His glory the next morning. Still, there is an almost poignant gesture by one of them, Ziad Jarrah, the young Lebanese who had asked his parents for $700 so he could have some fun. Early on the morning of September 11 he called his girlfriend in Germany. Later she told police that he sounded normal. He said that he loved her.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2004

    A must-read for everyone

    A fine piece of journalism and a testament to those who perished. The Times Staff and Mr. Bernstein poured their hearts into this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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