The Only Plane in the Sky: Garrett Graff


Garrett Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky is a tremendously moving oral history of the days before, during, and after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff

Americans have had the events of September 11, 2001 engrained in their minds and souls for almost two decades now, but if you haven’t actively sought out more information, you may not know the many – heartbreaking, hopeful, profound – small moments that made up that day, and the days and years to come.

This history of 9/11 is told entirely through quotes from first responders, survivors, reporters, and citizens whose lives were forever changed. It tells of the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Arlington, as well as the effects they had on American airspace, families, and the American government.

Content Warning

Please take caution while reading The Only Plane in the Sky if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Suicide
  • Death / dying
  • Blood

My Thoughts

On September 11, 2001, I was in second grade, and thus I only partially, tangentially remember the movements of the day, the effect it had on my parents and friends, and the ramifications of that day on the United States. Reading this book was unbelievably eye-opening and gave me an incredible understanding of the day’s events and the physical, emotional, and political tolls that reverberated across the country.

Obviously, as comes with a book about 9/11, this is a somber affair. Nonetheless, it is required reading for those of us that may not remember every piece of the day, or who were too young to understand the effect it had on our country. For example, I knew very little about the third plane that was downed in Pennsylvania, or the all-consuming dust bombs caused by the Twin Towers’ collapses. I truly learned so so much from this book.

More than learning about the events of September 11, 2001, Graff injects so much heart and compassion into every page through careful curation of hundreds of quotes from first responders, survivors, and other affected parties. There is truly nothing quite like reading the emotionally charged words of a firefighter who saved the lives of civilians but had to watch so many of his colleagues die in the process. I was moved to tears more than once while reading this book.

These first-hand accounts were meticulously curated into a cohesive, utterly harrowing timeline of before, during, and days, weeks, months, and years after that fateful day. It is truly a feat, what Graff was able to do with all of the quotes he compiled.

The Only Plane in the Sky is a heavy book, both emotionally and physically – it uses extremely high-quality paper and includes numerous pages of images. Its format is so compelling, though, that you won’t want to put it down. This is an incredible book, and I cannot recommend it enough for those who want to learn more about one of the most tragic, pivotal days in American history.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Only Plane in the Sky. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.

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