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The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11

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4.72  ·  Rating details ·  28,268 ratings  ·  4,857 reviews
15 hours, 54 minutes

Read by a 45-person cast, with Holter Graham and the author

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 Sk
...more
Audiobook, Unabridged, 16 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Simon & Schuster Audio
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Mary I awok in my tiny dark on-call sleeping room and staggered in my scrubs out to the hospital's doctor's lounge nearby, to scrounge food and caffeine. I…moreI awok in my tiny dark on-call sleeping room and staggered in my scrubs out to the hospital's doctor's lounge nearby, to scrounge food and caffeine. It was silent. Eerily, eerily silent. About 15 docs and midwives were standing in a semicircle around the tv -- and we all watched the 2nd plane hit the tower. I'll bet the others shared the sick feeling of fear in the pit of the stomach; this was no accident: our country was under attack. The strange quiet continued at home: no planes from McChord AFB in the sky, no planes on their way north to SeaTac.

About a week later, at my 11-yr-old son's soccer game just north of SeaTac, the very first commercial plane to approach the airport flew over us, and everyone -- everyone! -- at the soccer fields spontaneously cheered! There were tears on most faces.(less)
Chloe I spotted the hardback in the 9/11 memorial museum gift shop. It’s a beautiful edition, but I went with the audiobook too and it was excellent.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.72  · 
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 ·  28,268 ratings  ·  4,857 reviews


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Jayme
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
As both a flight attendant, and a woman born in NY, I will never forget 9/11.

I was getting ready to drive to work, on a day when I would be working as member of our Interview Team...interviewing applicants for open Flight Attendant positions.

My phone rang, and it was my Dad calling from FL., hoping he would find me at home and not flying.

He shared what he had heard on the news, and I turned on my TV, in time to watch United Flight 175, crash into the South Tower. My airline went on lockdown...
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Lisa of Troy
Mar 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The Best Audiobook of The Year?

The Only Plane In the Sky is a reconstruction of the events of September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Centers/The Twin Towers were hit by two different commercial airplanes. Additionally, there was an airplane that crashed into The Pentagon, and another plane was hijacked but the crew overpowered the hijackers, crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania.

On September 11, 2001, I was in Mrs. Neale’s biology class, a sophomore in high school. We were watching the TV a
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JanB
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If we are old enough to remember 9/11 we have a story to tell, even if that story is simply where we were when we heard the news. How could we forget the hours and days we spent glued to our tv sets as the horror unfolded before us? Most of us know someone, or know of someone, who was there that day, however tenuous the connection.

However, regardless of where we were, or how much we’ve read, we have an incomplete picture. There was so much I didn’t even know that I didn’t know, and this book ga
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Richard (on hiatus)
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In September 2001 my wife and I were on holiday in Spain. We decided to explore the next town on from our resort.
Sitting at an isolated bus stop on a hot, dusty roadside I notice a crumpled newspaper left on the bench next to me. I idly picked it up as it was in English. The entire front page was taken up with a grainy black and white photo. Two tall indistinct blocks, one with a gaping black hole filled with smoke and flames. That was the first I heard of the attack on the world trade centres
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Matthew
Wow . . . just wow . . .



I have read other 9/11 books and watched 9/11 specials – they are all very powerful. So, I will not say that this one is “better” or “more powerful”, but it certainly might be the most complete and thorough coverage of all the various events in one place. Pulling from hundreds of interviews with people directly involved, or who had family and friends involved, it is a very moving portrait of that fateful day.

This should be read by everyone, but it will not be easy for mos
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Elyse Walters
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hard to believe it’s been 20 years!!!
This is the most complete, comprehensive, phenomenal, audiobook I read last year —-
Fo Audiobook lovers - it’s impossible to go wrong with this one.

5+++++

Brilliant...
F#c#ing...OUTSTANDING!!!!!

Thanks Paula!!!!!

Would not have wanted to miss this book for ANYTHING!!!

Some things - we remember
Some things - we forget
Some things - we re-evaluate - fill in missing holes

Some TIMES..... it’s VERY IMPORTANT- VALUABLE- to hear the missing stories!!!!
THIS IS THAT BOO
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Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
5+ stars!

Most powerful audio book I’ve ever listened to.

I have no words to adequately describe how impactful this book is. I’m emotionally drained after listening to this. The audio was outstanding. The cast of 45 narrators was extremely powerful and heart wrenching. This book should be required reading in history classes.

Thank you to my local library for the audio loan.
Regina
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
*Re-read/-listen in September 2021 to commemorate 20 years since 9/11/01.*

The title The Only Plane in the Sky refers to Air Force One on September 11, 2001, as all aircraft over US airspace were grounded except the one carrying the president. Author Garrett M. Graff wanted to document what it was like aboard the plane on that fateful day, and the result was a 2016 moment-by-moment account for “Politico” that can be found here: https://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...

Given the tremendous response
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Johann (jobis89)
"We met when we were only 16, at a high school dance. When he died, we were 50. I remember how I didn't want that day to end, terrible as it was. I didn't want to go to sleep because as long as I was awake, it was still a day that I shared with Sean. - Beverly Eckert"

The Only Plane in the Sky tells the story of 9/11 as it happened - in the words of those who lived it.

I almost can't put into words how incredible this book is. It was clearly impeccably researched with hundreds of oral histories pi
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Swrp
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
|•| Hair-raising, breathtaking, literally gives shivers.

|•| An exemplary and exhaustive narrative!

|•| CW :: Not for the weak hearted. The contents are disturbing and highly emotional.

"I will always be in awe in the way he faced death."

This is a thorough account and an incredible way to memorialize the deeply impactful and hurtful incidents of September 11, 2001 in the United States. It also depicts the heights of sacrifice, kindness, empathy and most of all, hatred.


[nytimes.com]
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Barbara
“What was it like on 9/11?”

Garrett Graff took on the ambitious and bold project of providing an oral history of the events on the tragic day of Sept 11, 2001. “The Only Plane in the Sky” began as a Politico magazine article about the experiences of those aboard Air Force One on 9/11. He teamed with Jenny Pachucki, an oral historian, to produce one of the most inclusive narratives of the chaos, panic, frustration, and horror of that very long day.

The novel is 512 pages, which is chock-full of det
...more
Andrew Smith
Early in this book the author muses that everyone in America (of a certain age) can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they first heard news that the North Tower had been struck by an aeroplane, on that fateful September morning in 2001. I’d go further than that, I live more than three thousand miles from New York City and not only can I recall precisely where I was and what I was doing, just about everyone else I know can describe their personal experience of that moment too ...more
Karen
Sep 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Well, tomorrow marks the 21st anniversary of this unthinkable tragedy…
Hard to believe it’s been that long.
On that day I just got back to my desk from a meeting.. I was a radiology medical coder and we spent all our days coding one report after another and while us gals did this, we always listened to our radio stations on our headphones.
When I returned to my desk one of my coworkers said “put your headphones on” she had told me about a plane hitting the twin tower… as the morning went on we just
...more
Brandice
Aug 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A review can’t possibly do this one justice — The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 is a compilation of stories from this horrific day in U.S. history. Sad and moving, it’s a powerful story that Garrett Graff has taken great care to compose.

For those of us who remember the devastating day and for future generations who need to learn about it, this is the story — Highly recommend the audiobook which includes dozens of narrators bringing together several emotional accounts of the day
...more
Bharath
Sep 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some books are not easy to read, and I knew that this one especially would not be. Many have recommended the audio version, but Audible does not yet carry this in India – hopefully can listen to it sometime in the future. This book is so well written that much of the pain I had felt in the past resurfaced.

As the author says, this is one day where everyone remembers where they were and how the day progressed (for those in Mumbai, India - 26 Nov & 12 Mar are other such dates). This book does an e
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Lisa
Sep 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When the first tower collapsed, I was running down 5th Avenue. Running, because I was near the Empire State Building and people were yelling that it was the next target. Straight ahead of me, downtown, the whole sky filled with a black explosion. All of us in the street were panicked. At a pay phone line a woman cried that her son worked at the World Trade Center. No answer from my husband who worked in a building near the towers. I didn’t know if all of downtown had blown up. Eventually we foun ...more
Kay
Sep 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Twenty years later.

I was looking forward to listening to this. I borrowed it from the library and was about to start then saw on the news that the US started evacuating from Afghanistan. I read comments on social media and some baffled me that many people don't know or forget why the US was there. I was upset and didn't want to listen to this book with the thought that it would make me more miserable than I already was. Finally, I did start and I'm glad that I did. In the midst of the tragedy, i
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Darla
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
We remember 9/11 today. Can't believe it has been 21 years now. I listened to this audiobook in 2020 and it is fantastic.

Why listen to a book about the most traumatic day in our nation's history in the midst of a pandemic and racial unrest? For me, it was a cathartic experience that gave healing and hope. That attack on 9/11 affected all of us who were alive and the memory lives on. We all have a story. Hearing a comprehensive account of that day in chronological sequence utilizing a wide cast (
...more
Beata
Sep 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
No review needed ... Accounts collected to remember the victims and the day ... Millions could add their stories of how they remember that tragic day, myself included. Thank you to Mr Graff.
Jonetta
I was surprised when television networks began promoting their plans for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as it’s hard to fathom that event happened that long ago. For most adults in this country, we vividly remember where we were the day the towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked and those brave souls on Flight 93 thwarted the terrorists’ attempt for a strike on our nation’s Capitol. But for all my ingrained memories, there was so much I always wanted to know about that day…questions I had that wer ...more
Michelle
There is no other rating to give.

My full review is still to follow, but I wanted to list the below quote from Senior Chief Petty Officer Rob O'Neill, SEAL Team Six, U.S. Navy who participated in the raid of UBL. It is perhaps what moved me the most and I have a feeling it's because of who said the words, but also that they were at the end of what was a very emotional experience. Again, my full review is still to come.


"...We went in there thinking this was a one way mission. We had our last mea
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Deborah
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
September 11, 2001 - “We must not forget.” The crashes of American Airlines Flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines Flights 175 and 93. The collapses of the South and North Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The attack and fire at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The burning hole and scattered debris in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I like millions of others who were alive and of age will always remember September 11, 2001 in disbelief, horror, astoundment, and tears. I was listeni
...more
Ginger
Jul 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This audio book was just amazing!

I just can't imagine a book about 9/11 that's better then this one.
Garrett M. Graff spent almost 20 years compiling all of these personal stories.

The Only Plane in the Sky is interviews and personal stories from all the people that experienced this terrible tragedy in American history.
From people in New York City, the Pentagon, the administration of the White House, to the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. It's all in this book.

I will say that this book is no
...more
Suz
Oh my. God bless America.

What a wonderful book. I enjoyed the audio format, and if I particularly love a title, I will purchase the hard copy. I now proudly own the hard cover version. I am reviewing this book months after reading; I found my notes last night and will put them in words now. The audio was excellent, my son and I listened to a good chunk on a road trip to my parents as they live over three hours away. He is ten years old and learned a good deal about this tragic event, and I am p
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
"...to all the children affected by 9/11. I hope this book helps you understand the world in which you live.”- Garrett Graff’s dedication

I am one of the 9/11 generation. Growing up, I had some grasp of Osama bin Laden and the War on Terror, an international threat usually on the fringe of my conscious and stoked on the backburner by news snippets. As for the day itself, I was still barely a year old. I have no memory of it, of where I was or of what emotions I had. But listening to these stories
...more
Traci Thomas
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This book is pretty incredible. The scope. The way it’s told. The first 1/3 is so captivating you can’t put it down even though it’s painful to read. This book forces the reader to deal with the minutiae of 9/11 in a way photos or video clips don’t. The scope of the book is impressive chronicling 9/11 in detail from start to finish.

The one thing that I didn’t love is there’s lots of people cited so it’s hard to keep track of certain stories or events over 400+ pages.
Jill Hutchinson
This is an impossible book to review as there are no words to describe the effect it will have on the reader. The majority of us saw, with horror, the events of 9/11 unfolding on television as they happened and this book will bring them back vividly. You will remember exactly where you were, how you felt, and how you prayed (if you pray).

This book is comprised of the words from survivors, rescuers, the military, families, government, and even the words of those who perished through their last te
...more
Ammar
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful
Multi perspective
Shows how the events shaped the last 18 years of our lives
The way we travel
The way politics and war
Every mans life
Rick
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I can't remember another reading experience like this. Whatever your own experience of 9/11 was - and for all of us who lived through it, we remember where we were, what we were doing - Garrett takes that lived experience and makes the day come alive through the stories of hundreds of Americans, and makes you feel like your memories blend with those of the people whose stories are told on these pages.

I'd read the original magazine article that formed the basis of the book, and I remember thinkin
...more
Sarah Swann
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have no words. I actually don’t. I have never read a book that gave me so many emotions. I cried my way through this. There was SO MUCH I didn’t know or wasn’t aware of that day. So much I never even took into consideration. This is an eye-opening and life-changing book. Wow.
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Garrett M. Graff, a distinguished magazine journalist and historian, has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security. He’s written for publications from WIRED to Bloomberg BusinessWeek to the New York Times, and served as the editor of two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and POLITICO Magazine, which he helped lead to its first Nation ...more

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“We met when we were only 16, at a high school dance. When he died, we were 50. I remember how I didn't want that day to end, terrible as it was. I didn't want to go to sleep because as long as I was awake, it was still a day that I shared with Sean. ~Beverly Eckert” 5 likes
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