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

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4.72  ·  Rating details ·  13,656 ratings  ·  2,593 reviews
The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from the voices of Americans on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.

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.

Listening length: 15 hou
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Audiobook, Unabridged Audio Download, 16 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Simon & Schuster Audio
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Hawley I was home on maternity leave from my job as a 911 call taker/dispatcher for a large fire department in Canada. Those images I saw on TV were terrifyi…moreI was home on maternity leave from my job as a 911 call taker/dispatcher for a large fire department in Canada. Those images I saw on TV were terrifying, I couldn't help but think of the call takers and dispatchers working, knowing what they were going though and that they would be traumatized by the events of that day. I don't know how they found the courage to pick up phone call after phone call.(less)

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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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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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Richard
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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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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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
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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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Elizabeth
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Elizabeth by: JanB
Shelves: nonfiction, history
"...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
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Traci at The Stacks
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.
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
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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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
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Greta
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
What was the only plane in the sky on 9/11?

The only American who was not on earth on 9/11 was on the space station. He could see the dark cloud over Manhattan, as they tried to capture as many data after the attack as possible. The sky was empty, all planes were taken off the sky; except for one. The Air Force One with president Bush on board was aimlessly flying over the states for hours. It was the only place he could be safe.

"The Only Plane in the Sky" is the oral history of 9/11 - told by o
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Larry
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Brings back memories, with a few tears. I was flying from Chicago to Houston that morning, landing shortly after the directive to ground all flights. My Mom worked for American Airlines, based at LaGuardia. Just wanted to be home with my wife and daughters. Never forget.
Nursebookie
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing book that brought me back to the exact second I heard of the news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. The book detailed what happened to the people involved, the recordings of the event in the planes, the stories from witnesses, survivors and family members including our members of the media and government officials. There were so many details that were captured from the over 2,000 people that was represented and interviewed for the story. I learned a lot about wha ...more
Renee (itsbooktalk)
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was riveting and unforgettable! I highly recommend the audio if you're going to read it, one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to.
Laura • lauralovestoread
"𝙷𝚎𝚢 𝙹𝚞𝚕𝚎𝚜, 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚒𝚜 𝙱𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚗. 𝙸’𝚖 𝚘𝚗 𝚊𝚗 𝚊𝚒𝚛𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚒𝚓𝚊𝚌𝚔𝚎𝚍...𝚒𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚍𝚘𝚗'𝚝 𝚐𝚘 𝚠𝚎𝚕𝚕, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢'𝚛𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍, 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚊𝚋𝚜𝚘𝚕𝚞𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍, 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜, 𝚜𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚢 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚜. 𝙸'𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚝𝚘𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞. 𝙱𝚢𝚎, 𝚋𝚊𝚋𝚎, 𝚑𝚘𝚙𝚎 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚢𝚘𝚞."

If I could give this book 1,000 stars, I would. I recommend every person to read this impactful novel.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙊𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙋𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙚 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙠𝙮 is an incredible narrative
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Kathleen
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Never forget!” We tell ourselves that, but it has been nearly 20 years since that horrific day and undoubtedly some important memories have faded. This brilliant compilation of hundreds of oral histories presented in chronological order reminded me of the key events of that fateful day. It made for emotional reading. I found tears welling up in my eyes more than once. [Of note, I highly recommend the audiobook version which won the Audie Award in 2020.]

Garrett includes moving voicemails that pa
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Stephanie Fitzgerald
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who remembers that day, and especially those that do not...
Wow...just... wow. Such a powerful book, one that is difficult to review in words.
Memorable Quotes:
(Pg.55)-“Peter Hanson,32, traveling with his wife, Sue Kim, 35, and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Christine, called his father. Christine would be the youngest victim on September 11th.”
(Pg. 192)-“Frederick Terna, Holocaust survivor and Brooklyn resident: As ashes were falling, I was back in Auschwitz, with ashes coming down. In Auschwitz, I knew what the ashes were. Here, I assumed I kn
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Kaytee Cobb
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Freaking amazing. 1 million stars
Arna
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yeah this one will break your heart.

Everyone who is old enough remembers where they were and what they were doing on 9/11, even those outside of America.

Reading this book provided a very detailed insight into what happened from the moment the planes were boarded right through to the clean up.

Reading first hand experience from survivors, government offical, emergency responders and family members was an incredibly personal way to learn a detailed history of that awful day.

Due to how emotional
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Onceinabluemoon
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most intense audio book I have ever listened to, I found myself sobbing, weeping, heart sick countless times. I listened to it the entire day, from start to finish, while laying pavers in the garden, i would suddenly stop, shock still and begin weeping. My husband glanced at me and said what's wrong, your face is contorted, my reactions were visceral. As one of our countries greatest loss this book should touch everyone with a soul. It is riveting, you are reliving history minute by ...more
Marc
This should be required reading for all Americans. The author did a masterful job of weaving the own words of people impacted on that horrific day to create a "complete" story of what happened. I remember September 11, 2001 but so much happened so quickly that most of my memories are emotional fragments. This book helped me connect my own experience with what happened to my country that day. Highly recommended.
Ashley
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I can’t think of a better book to close out the decade than The Only Plane in the Sky. This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read, a book I think should be required reading for all Americans, especially the younger generations.

I’ve always been fascinated with people experiencing the same event in a variety of different ways, and this book fully takes readers through several of the countless perspectives of September 11, 2001. It was fascinating and heartwrenching to think of those in
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Pantelis Andreou
Whoa!

This book really made me think!

This book made me take a few hours to let all the thoughts sink in!

This book made me think of all the lives that ended tragically that day!

While at the same time there are no words left to describe how incredible this book is!
Laura
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star
This is one of the defining books of a generation; perhaps the best way to demonstrate to todays young people the reality of the atrocious events of 9/11, best described through the eyes of the survivors, government officials and emergency aid workers who lived through the day and its immediate aftermath.

The author does an stellar job of creating a forum for survivors to tell their stories in such vivid detail. The book is large, although divided into several chapters from the morning of 9/11 on
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Kayla
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this advanced reader's copy at a conference and I knew starting it that it was going to be difficult to absorb, as everyone know's how 9/11 ended. But this book was fantastically put together. It didn't choose a political side or speak ill of any of the victims or survivors. What it is, is those stories of people who never really got heard. The stories of not only the survivors and their families, but the other pilots in the sky, the politicians, the first responders to all three site ...more
Robert Sheard
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most moving books I've ever read. I think I read it over eight sessions and probably cried during six of them. For anyone old enough to remember that day, this book brings back all of the feelings we experienced, but enhances those feelings with all the stories that we didn't know at the time.

I can't say how a young person will respond to this book, if they don't have a direct memory of the day, but the account is so powerful, I can only imagine it will be a moving experience
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Brandie
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you read any nonfiction this year, it needs to be this book.
Suzanne thebookblondie
The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff (#90 in 2019)
Graff begins the narrative on the day prior to September 11th, 2001, and then continues his story into the weeks and months following the tragedy. The book is essentially a compilation of recently declassified documents, interviews, eyewitness accounts, and oral histories from many of those who were impacted by the 9/11 attacks. At times, Graff inserts his own, unbiased commentary for the purpose of reorienting the reader in different lo
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Anita Pomerantz
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant oral history of 9/11 as told through the eyes of those who were directly touched by the tragic events that unfolded that day. The author did a great job of organizing the quotes so that they form a comprehensive view of that day. So moving. So important. I have a new appreciation for what people went through, and also for the bravery of the first responders.

If you like non-fiction at all, this book should be on your TBR.
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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

Articles featuring this book

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
61 likes · 19 comments
“Father Mychal Judge, chaplain, FDNY: Good days. And bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job. Which is a mystery. And a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.” 4 likes
“We took the time to shake each other’s hands and wish each other good luck and “Hope I’ll see you later,” which is especially poignant for me because we all had that acknowledgment that this might be our last day on earth and we went to work anyway.” 3 likes
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