Home Airlines The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11

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

by SharonKurheg

September 11, 2001 remains our country’s saddest day in aviation history. The attacks that occurred on 9/11 killed nearly 3,000 people, injured over 6,000 and caused over $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. On top of that, thousands of people have died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks and tens of thousands still live with illnesses directly caused by 9/11. It was the day that changed, not only U.S., but worldwide aviation for forever.

Anyone from the U.S. who’s old enough to remember 9/11 can remember where they were, and sometimes what they were doing when they found out about the attacks. That not only goes for us everyday citizens, but those who were making the decisions of what we should do as a country, as well as those who were working at the affected airlines and loved ones of those who were lost.

Garrett M. Graff is a former POLITICO and Washingtonian editor who has written a book called The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11.


Scheduled for release tomorrow, the book is the product of three years of collecting 9/11-related stories from the memories of a wide variety of people such as responders, witnesses, politicians, survivors, family members, news people, etc. Graff then then assembled the pieces into a chronological re-creation of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon (and possibly the Capitol, an attack that failed when the passengers aboard Flight 93 fought back, causing their plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania), starting from the pre-dawn hours of that horrific day.

I’ve read several reviews of those who got advanced copies and it sounds as if the book is powerful and riveting. However, it’s the excerpt highlighted in POLITICO that makes me very sure I want to buy this.

The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 will be available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indiebound and Simon & Schuster.

Where were you/what were you doing when you found out about the attacks of 9/11/01?

Joe and I were getting ready to go to Walt Disney World to meet our planner and make some decisions about our wedding, when he called me into the bedroom to watch the awful scenes on TV. They were, of course, horrifying, scary and sickening, all at the same time. Our planner called us and asked if we wanted to reschedule, but Joe had already taken the day off from work and we didn’t think we knew anyone who was affected (I found out, years later, that I actually did – someone who had worked at the same hospital as I did was a first responder – he was lost at the site of the World Trade Center), so we went. We lived in Tampa at the time and as we drove towards Orlando, we tuned in to Howard Stern so we could hear what was happening from a “New Yorker.” We planned most of our wedding that day – from across the lagoon, we could hear when they announced over the loudspeakers that they were closing the Magic Kingdom – needless to say, it was a very bittersweet day for us.

How about you?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Island Miler September 9, 2019 - 4:22 pm

I woke up to images of the WTC burning on the news (Hawaii Time Zone). Typical, something like this, while tragic, wouldn’t cause too much concern all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. But, that year, my high school’s marching band was scheduled to participate in the 75th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We had several emergency meetings in the weeks to follow and did eventually decide to continue our participation.

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Ralfinho September 10, 2019 - 6:56 am

I was at the university in Kaiserslautern, Germany. We were grading a written exam of our undergraduate students when suddenly a colleague entered and said, that a plane had crashed into WTC.
At first, I thought it was some kind of a small sport plane or something like that.
We then turned on the tv and couldn’t believe our eyes. And were shocked again and again by the subsequent crashes and the tumbling down of the twin towers.
Our group was known for finishing grading of written exams (of around 100 students) in less than one day. Not this time.

Cookie Wright September 11, 2020 - 10:43 pm

I was teaching 5th grade. There were stirrings and activity outside my room, which I noticed, but I was working with students so I didn’t go find out what was going on. Then another teacher came to my door, took me out in the hall, and told me what was going on. We were instructed not to tell our students, but to continue on with the day as usual. During our breaks and at lunch we were glued to the TV, trying to get information and to make some sense out of what we were seeing and hearing. We also knew and talked about how we would answer questions and deal with issues the next day when the students returned to school after having spent the evening in front of their TVs. We all knew we would have no answers and would have to deal with the fears and anxiety for a long time, both ours and our students.


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