Friday, October 25, 2019

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

Title: The Only Plane in the Sky:  An Oral History of 9/11
Author: Garrett M. Graff
Read by:  A 45 Person Cast with Holter Graham and the Author
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: Approximately 15 hours and 55 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

On September 11th, I was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student at Michigan Technological University.  I was teaching a hydraulics lab that morning when my undergraduate research assistant stopped by to tell me a plane had flown into the world trade center.  I thought that was a strange accident.  After the lab ended, I went out in the hallway and noticed a group of students gathered around the TV that usually only showed event slides.  The TV was strangely showing live coverage and the sound was on.  It was then that I knew it was not an accident and that the United States was under attack.

Everyone who was alive on September 11th has their own personal narrative and remembers exactly where they were and likes to share their story.  I’ve heard so many interesting stories over the years. Author Garrett Graff made the inspired decision to collect the oral narratives of those that survived the day and put them together to make a complex narrative of the story of 9/11.  Narratives include those from the top including George Bush, Laura Bush, Rudy Giuliani down to those that were receiving calls from the people on the planes, rescue responders, those fleeing the scenes, etc. 

As the audiobook unfolded in real time occurrence of events, it gave a comprehensive story of the confusion, horror, and bravery that occurred on 9/11.  I learned a lot that I hadn’t known during 9/11 and the aftermath, and it gave me a lot to think about.  What I really loved and appreciated was through the horror, everyone’s first response was to help other people.  It was uplifting to hear in such a tragic book.  As Mr. Roger’s said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’”

 I also was fascinated and disturbed at how efficient the secret service was able to get those in power out of DC, but it also seemed not efficient with them being out of direct contact with other decision makers.

Author Garrett Graff stated in the introduction that this book is for the young people who were not alive during 9/11 to understand the chaos and mass confusion at the time.  Now it is standard to have the full searches and security at the airport, but it didn’t use to be that way.  It’s also standard to just expect bad things to happen, but this audiobook really shows the shock and confusion of the day.  No one expected or had ever imagined that a commercial airliner could be used as a weapon.  It’s amazing to think that students who started college this fall might not have been born when 9/11 happened.  This audiobook was a true living history and great tribute to all who lost their lives on that day.

The title comes from a great opening with the narrative of astronaut Frank Culbertson watched the 9/11 attacks take place from the international space station.  As he tried to watch and photograph from space, an eerie scene took place.  He noticed there were no plane contrails at all in the sky over the United States.  There was only one heading north from Florida.  The only plane in the sky was President George W. Bush. 

I loved that the audiobook contained an interview at the end between the author Garrett Graff and the main narrator, Holton Graham.  They both told their 9/11 stories and how this book came to be.  It was fascinating. The entire way this audiobook was put together was inspired.  Having such a large cast to give voice to the different narratives worked wonderfully well.  I couldn’t stop listening to this audiobook.  It was the best audiobook I have ever had the pleasure to listen to or review.  I feel like I can’t really give it enough accolades and I could keep writing about it all day.  I will stop and just say, please listen to this audiobook yourself.  It is an important part of our history.

The Only Plane in the Sky is an engrossing, riveting audio narrative of 9/11.  This is the best audiobook of 2019 and is a “must listen.”

What is your 9/11 story?

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Laura! I'm adding this to my audio wish list... just in time for Nonfiction November.