Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is releasing his 600-page memoir, ‘The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a crisis and Its Aftermath,’ today.

In it he recalls the “terrible, surreal moment” as negotiations broke down to save the Lehman Brothers bank – which began the avalanche of bad debts leading to the Global Financial Crisis.

Tim Geithner was the lead negotiator (then the head of the New York Fed), while Henry Paulson was Treasury Secretary. “We  were staring into the abyss,” said Bernanke.

The top executives of the major banks were in marathon talks with regulators in an effort to cobble together an agreement to buy Lehman Brothers.

When their failure to reach an agreement became obvious Geithner turned to Bernanke and said, “All we can do is put foam on the runway (referring to efforts to prevent a fire when a jetliner is coming in to crash land).”

Bernanke’s memoire rightfully revolves around the GFC – the biggest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

He describes the difficulty in bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac becausee of tax-payer outrage against doing so.

But Bernanke defends the bailouts and the Federal Reserve’s rescue program for the economy. Without the government’s extraordinary and deliberate assistance, he says, things would have been much worse.

“The journey was nerve-racking. But most of my colleagues and I were determined not to repeat the blunder the Federal Reserve had committed in the 1930s when it refused to deploy its monetary tools to avoid the sharp deflation that substantially worsened the great Depression.”

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