I really enjoy the format of an oral history — but most of my experiences with that have been pop culture stories (Vanity Fair’s archives have some amazing reads). I like to see all of the different perspectives people hold of the same story, and I like to watch that story come together in their voices. The Only Plane in the Sky is an oral history of 9/11. This of course is not the light-hearted pop culture reading that I’m used to. But it is an event that I connect with. And I hope this doesn’t sound disrespectful, but just like hearing about the details behind Friends or Seinfeld coming together connected with my own experience of those shows, reading this book and learning about the details of an event that I remember explicitly from my own perspective — but hearing it in the voices of hundreds of people who experienced it differently than I did — was really an incredible experience.
“The significance of the date of September 11th, 9/11, was seared into the nation’s collective memory, altering the way those affected looked at the calendar and even clocks.”
Garrett Graff collected hundreds of interviews and pieced them together in an easy-to-follow timeline of the events of September 11th. There are a few references to events from the day prior and days after, but almost every page has something that happened on that day. Some of the stories were familiar, and many were not. There was definitely a lot of information here that I wasn’t previously aware of. In particular, I really did not know much about the events that happened at the Pentagon on that day. Graff gives the Pentagon almost as much space in the book as he does the events of the Twin Towers. Same for the plane landing in Shanksville. Interviewees point out that often, the victims of those two tragedies are not afforded the same respect or attention as those who died in the Twin Towers. That is definitely not the case in this book.