A timeline of that fateful day provided through snippets of recollections from all those involved – emotional, heartbreaking and raw!
The Only Plane in the Sky: The Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff
The Only Plane in the Sky is nothing less than the first comprehensive oral history of 9/11, deftly woven and told in the voices of ordinary people grappling with extraordinary events. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, new and archived interviews from nearly five hundred people, historian Garrett Graff skillfully tells the story of the day as it was lived.
It begins in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, where we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights. In New York, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable chaos at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker beneath the White House, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice watch for incoming planes on radar. In the offices of the Pentagon, top officials feel the violent tremor as their headquarters come under attack.
We hear the stories of the father and son working on separate floors in the North Tower; the firefighter who rushes to the scene to search for his wife; the telephone operator who keeps her promise to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the chaplain who stays on the scene to perform last rites, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; the teachers evacuating terrified children from schools mere blocks from the World Trade Center; the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try and rescue their colleagues.
A devastating event in our history which we all tragically know how it ends, yet no matter how many times I read about it, it doesn’t get any less shocking!
For those of us who were alive or old enough when 9/11 happened, I’m sure we can all remember exactly where we were when the news broke. The book begins with this, the fact that everyone has a story to tell about that day, whether you were there or not, we all took something from that day that will be with us forever.
Essentially this book is a collection of memories. The day’s events are told via snippets of recollections from hundreds of different people who were there that day, from the emergency services, survivors, relatives of lost loved ones, politicians, ticket agents, even right up to legal representatives. Everyone has a story to tell and Garrett Graff does such an incredible job of piecing all these memories together to tell the story of that fateful day.
Non-fiction is always hard to review, especially for something like this, but this was so much more than just a detailed, fact ridden timeline of that day. As this was told purely via each different persons point of view it felt a lot more emotional and some of the stories told I had never heard about before, such as the woman with terminal cancer who lost her firefighter husband, to the ticket agent who was riddled with guilt for letting the hijackers through.
It was hard to read at times and it was definitely a book that I dipped into now and again as it is just so upsetting. However, overall this was such a meticulously researched book that captures that moment in history as we all remember it and I think this should be on everyone’s book shelf!