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

Avid Reader: S. & S. Sept. 2019. 512p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9781501182204. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781501182228. HIST
One of the most traumatic days in U.S. history was the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda hijackings of four airliners turned into weapons of mass destruction. Graff (Raven Rock), director of Aspen Institute’s cybersecurity and technology program, spent three years conducting hundreds of interviews with those who became heroes, victims, and survivors on the day when all U.S. flights were grounded, except Air Force One. Included are oral histories conducted by journalists and historians, resulting in an hour-by-hour remembrance of that day. Overarching themes are the heroism of first responders and civilians, families torn apart and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, and the transformation of a country mired in chaos to one steeled to destroy the terrorists responsible for 2,983, and counting, deaths. President George W. Bush, who was shuttled on Air Force One from Washington, DC, to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska, then back to the capital, all on 9/11, delivered the most important speech of his presidency that evening. That, along with the heartrendering evacuation of New York’s World Trade Center, are two of many threads that will stay with readers.
VERDICT This excellent oral history provides a much-needed perspective of the events and aftermath.
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