Now with a new afterword, Garrett M. Graff’s instant New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky, the comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001 called “history as its most immediate and moving” (Jon Meacham) and “remarkable…a priceless civic gift” (The Wall Street Journal).
Hailed as “remarkable…incredibly evocative and compelling” (The Washington Post) and “oral history at its finest” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Garrett M. Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky is the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet, comprised of never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, and original interviews and stories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members. Here is a vivid, profound, and searing portrait of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The tragedy and heroism of 9/11 is starkly revealed in Garrett M. Graff’s oral history, The Only Plane in the Sky. Compiled from over 400 interviews—with people ranging from First Lady Laura Bush to New Yorkers who were on their way to work—Graff revisits that Tuesday morning in 2001, from its ordinary early hours to the full-blown horror of the attacks. Heartbreaking transcripts of cockpit recordings and phone calls from passengers aboard United Flight 93 are woven into the recollections of those who fought to survive and rescue others. At times we had to put it down for a few moments to process the grief and pain of some of these stories, but what emerges at the end is a sense of hope and heroism, told in honest and sensitive terms.
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.