I am from New York and was living in Westchester County on September 11, 2001. My first memory from that day is sitting at my desk at work and reading a two-sentence news blurb that the World Trade Center was on fire. Like many, I first assumed it was a small plane that had hit the tower by accident. Soon enough, the horror of that day unfolded, under a crystalline blue sky that I’ll never forget.
The Only Plane in the Sky is a meticulous and thorough oral history of that day. The book’s chapters are organized by time, place, and perspective. Chapters contain a wide variety of accounts, from the President’s team who traveled with him from Florida (on Airforce One, “the only plane in the sky”), to firefighters who survived the WTC collapse, to people recounting the last calls from their loved ones who perished, to the air traffic controllers, to every-day bystanders.
Needless to say, the book is a hard read. Anyone old enough to remember the attacks will find something that resonates for them or brings them back to that terrible time. But the book also captures the many heroic people who selflessly helped others that day, some at the cost of their lives. Therefore The Only Plane in the Sky reveals both the worst and the best of humanity. It fills you with despair, but it also fills you with hope. The beloved TV icon Mr. Rogers once recalled something his mother said about facing catastrophe: look for the helpers. On 9/11 there were thousands of them. This book gives both the living and the dead a voice. The author never speaks over these stories. They are presented one after the other after the other, a chorus of different voices that will resonate inside of me for a very long time. If you can bear a recounting of that day, this is the best book I’ve read about 9/11.