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The Only Plane in the Sky

An Oral History of September 11, 2001
Written by: Garrett M. Graff
Narrated by: full cast
Length: 15 hrs and 55 mins
5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

2020 AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR AUDIE AWARD WINNER!

2020 MULTI-VOICED PERFORMANCE AUDIE AWARD WINNER!

Audio bonus! The audio edition includes an exclusive interview with Garrett Graff and Holter Graham as well as archival audio from United States Presidential addresses, In-Flight Communications, and Air Traffic Control.

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

"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)

"Visceral...I repeatedly cried.... This book captures the emotions and unspooling horror of the day." (NPR)

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.

Over the past 18 years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, which traced the rise of al-Qaeda, to The 9/11 Commission Report, the government's definitive factual retrospective of the attacks. But one perspective has been missing up to this point - a 360-degree account of the day told through the voices of the people who experienced it.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and best-selling historian 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, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly 500 government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff 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 City, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker underneath the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard the small number of 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 Flight 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 working in the North Tower, 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 rushing into the burning building to try 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."

©2019 Garrett M. Graff (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

What the critics say

"The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 is a book exquisitely suited to audio format, a detailed cataloging of hundreds of personal stories, read by actors and culled from 5,000 oral histories conducted and archived around the country.... We hear from first responders, office workers in the twin towers, people traumatized by witnessing falling bodies.... Unlike many works of history, The Only Plane in the Sky, a mountain of indelible anecdotes, does not feel like a novel. It feels, instead, like dozens that ought to be written." (The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about The Only Plane in the Sky

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amazing, touching, heartbreaking, and all too real

so vivid and raw, this is history really captures many different viewpoints of that fateful day. so heartbreaking

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  • LManc
  • 2019-09-13

This should be required listening

This book should be required listening for all high school and college students and politicians.
It is one of the hardest books I have listened to, due to the emotions of the people telling in their own voices the events of that day. The book itself is extremely well done. It flows very well. I have learned much from this book. I also have used many Kleenex during it.
I watched this event happen via computer video and TV. I am in awe of the bravery of those that experienced it in person.
Thank you for this book.
After listening, no one will ever forget 9-11-01.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Kevin Farrell
  • 2019-09-14

Prepare yourself...

This book is excellent. However, there were many moments when I needed to stop reading and collect myself. It is very emotional at times and extremely sad. It contains voices that remind one how cruel people can be (the perpetrators) but also how kind, thoughtful and resilient people are at their best. It is a testament to the human spirit but it is also extremely dark at times, as people describe the horrible impact that day had on their lives, and how 9/11 resonates down through the years.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Gryphon
  • 2019-09-14

An emotional roller coaster!

What a heartbreaking yet uplifting story. It brought back all the anger and pain of that day. An unusual listen yet I liked it. It didn’t take me long to figure out I needed to have tissues on hand for every listening session. My wife asked me “why listen to a book that makes you cry every time you listen to it?” My reply, “because I need to hear it.”

29 people found this helpful

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  • Catty Wampa
  • 2019-09-25

It was a privilege to have listened to this

It can’t be understated how remarkable this undertaking was and how valuable it could be to the historical record. I can’t think of a corollary artifact for any other milestone event in history, and certainly none that focuses so acutely and vividly on the experiences of the people involved.

If you’re interested from a production standpoint, it’s excellent. The performances were incredible, as is the flow, divisions, and pacing of the narrative.

Thank you to all involved.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Dale
  • 2019-09-25

Incredible Book!!!

Brilliantly written, honored all the victims and heroes of 911. The narration is perfect throughout. The detail of the tragedy is very extensive and well laid out. No matter how much TV coverage you may have watched of 911 this book will enlighten you to the real horrors and miracles that took place that day.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Mary F.
  • 2019-09-11

Devastating.

I only listen for short periods of time. I hope anyone reading the book will consider listening to the Audible edition. It accurately reflects the utter chaos on Capitol Hill. And the horror of smelling the Pentagon burn while trapped in gridlocked traffic.

42 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth Henderson
  • 2019-09-24

Important to Listen

I got this expecting to cry through the entire thing. Instead, I listened with respect and love. To fully understand 9/11 past the facts and figures, one needs to understand the humanity. This book helps with that. It was worth the purchase despite the fact that I generally prefer fantasy fiction.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Sharon
  • 2019-09-22

Add this book to the top of your reading list

I'm not eloquent ...and can't capture my thoughts and emotions in such a way that will captivate you and inspire you to listen to this book. But you simply must. And you MUST listen. If there was ever a book that was designed to be listened to instead of read, it is this oral history. WE. MUST. NEVER. FORGET.

9 people found this helpful

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  • W. Jackson
  • 2019-09-14

This is a must listen book

This is an awesome piece of work. To hear all the accounts put end to end is really amazing. I think this is perhaps the most moving literary work that I’ve heard on the topic of 9/11.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Pate
  • 2019-11-17

Overall book

I kept hearing the same story from the same people.
A lot of the book was repeated starting chapter 22.
Was not what I expected

6 people found this helpful