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The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"This is history at its most immediate and moving...A marvelous and memorable book." —Jon Meacham

"Remarkable...A priceless civic gift...On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken." —The Wall Street Journal

"Had me turning each page with my heart in my throat...There's been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it." —Katie Couric

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from voices on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.
Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower to The 9/11 Commission Report. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through firsthand.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, he paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker under the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger's last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from trying to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
09/10/2019
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781501182228
ASIN:
B07P5H18W6

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APA Citation (style guide)

Garrett M. Graff. (2019). The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Garrett M. Graff. 2019. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Garrett M. Graff, The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2019.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Garrett M. Graff. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Date Updated:
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      • bioText: Garrett M. Graff has spent nearly two decades covering politics, technology, and national security. The former editor of Politico and contributor to Wired and CNN, he's written for publications from Esquire to Rolling Stone to The New York Times, and today serves as the director of the cyber initiative at the Aspen Institute. Graff is the author of multiple books, including the FBI history The Threat Matrix, Raven Rock (about the government's Cold War Doomsday plans), When the Sea Came Alive (an oral history of D-Day), and the New York Times bestsellers The Only Plane in the Sky and Watergate, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"This is history at its most immediate and moving...A marvelous and memorable book." —Jon Meacham

"Remarkable...A priceless civic gift...On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken." —The Wall Street Journal

"Had me turning each page with my heart in my throat...There's been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it." —Katie Couric

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from voices on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.
Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower to The 9/11 Commission Report. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through firsthand.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, he paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker under the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger's last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from trying to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from July 15, 2019
        Wrenching, highly personal accounts of 9/11 and its aftermath. Former POLITICO and Washingtonian editor Graff (Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan To Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die, 2017, etc.) returns with an impressive feat of organization, editing, and balance. He begins the story early in the morning of 9/11, proceeds through the entire day, and then follows up with comments from people about the ensuing weeks, months, and years. He spent three years collecting stories from a wide variety of people--survivors, responders, politicians, witnesses, family members--and then assembled the pieces into a coherent and powerful re-creation of the attacks on the twin towers, the Pentagon, and (perhaps) the Capitol, an attack that failed when the passengers aboard Flight 93 fought back, their plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field. Some of the storytellers' names are well known--e.g., Katie Couric, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush--but most of them are not. Graff also does an admirable job of maintaining focus on the personal stories and does not drift off into political commentary--or engage in placing blame--or arrange the material so that some of his interviewees look good and some bad. Pretty much everyone emerges looking good, from President George W. Bush on down the political ladder--not to mention the stunning heroism of the fire and police departments and the unnumbered, and sometimes nameless, others who rushed to help. Graff excels at re-creating the anxiety and terror of that day: What is happening? What's next? Who did this? Most affecting of all, of course, are the accounts of those who survived, the responders who struggled to help (and who lost so many of their colleagues), and the families who learned a loved one would never be coming home. Pair this with Mitchell Zuckoff's Fall and Rise for a full, well-rounded perspective on this monumental tragedy. Readers who emerge dry-eyed from the text should check their pulses: Something is wrong with their hearts.

        COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from July 29, 2019
        Journalist Graff (Raven Rock) organizes first-person accounts of 9/11 from numerous sources and adds contextualizing facts and maps to produce a harrowing and powerful narrative of that day. He follows airline personnel, passengers, and their spouses; first responders; those surrounding President Bush and the rest of the nation’s leadership; media employees; and others. Graff sets the stage with seemingly mundane decisions whose significance readers will suspect, such as choosing to have a pair of glasses fixed rather than going directly to work in Tower Two, or going back to a hotel room for a different shirt before a meeting. As the crises unfold, Graff balances the reports of rescues and deaths from New York and the Pentagon with reactions aboard Air Force One; in Shanksville, Penn., where Flight 93 crashed; and in other relevant locations. Graff doesn’t shy away from describing casualties, such as those who jumped from the towers, but keeps those passages brief. By the end of the day, there are some tearful reunions, but the hospitals, braced to receive hundreds of casualties, are eerily empty. The bewilderment, fear, and courage exhibited on that day are palpable in these recollections. This vivid, moving work is painful to read but honors both those who died and those who survived that awful day.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 1, 2019

        One of the most traumatic days in U.S. history was the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda hijackings of four airliners turned into weapons of mass destruction. Graff (Raven Rock), director of Aspen Institute's cybersecurity and technology program, spent three years conducting hundreds of interviews with those who became heroes, victims, and survivors on the day when all U.S. flights were grounded, except Air Force One. Included are oral histories conducted by journalists and historians, resulting in an hour-by-hour remembrance of that day. Overarching themes are the heroism of first responders and civilians, families torn apart and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, and the transformation of a country mired in chaos to one steeled to destroy the terrorists responsible for 2,983, and counting, deaths. President George W. Bush, who was shuttled on Air Force One from Washington, DC, to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska, then back to the capital, all on 9/11, delivered the most important speech of his presidency that evening. That, along with the heartrendering evacuation of New York's World Trade Center, are two of many threads that will stay with readers. VERDICT This excellent oral history provides a much-needed perspective of the events and aftermath.--Karl Helicher, formerly with Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA

        Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2019
        9/11 was a tragedy before it became a symbol and dividing line in American history, an act of violence that killed almost 3000 people and deeply impacted the lives of thousands of survivors, thousands more who lost loved ones, first responders, and many communities. As it begins to recede into history, award-winning journalist Graff (Raven Rock, 2017) has gathered memories, testimonies, and transcripts into a collective oral history designed to help readers "to hear others' stories, to know what it was like to experience the day firsthand, to wrestle with the confusion and the terror." Drawing on a wide range of earlier oral history work and his own interviews, Graff juxtaposes the basic narrative of 9/11?the hijackings, the collapsing structures and their impacts, the response to the attacks by political leaders and the military?with a diverse group of individual experiences. There are tragedies and losses, moments of heroism and survival, and fears and foreshadowings of a darker future to come. "We were spared," recalls one survivor, "but everything changed." This book is an excellent resource for readers seeking to understand how, and why.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"This is history at its most immediate and moving...A marvelous and memorable book." —Jon Meacham

"Remarkable...A priceless civic gift...On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken." —The Wall Street Journal

"Had me turning each page with my heart in my throat...There's been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it." —Katie Couric

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from voices on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.
Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower to The 9/11 Commission Report. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told...
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