The Only Plane in the Sky
|author:||Garrett M. Graff (2019)|
|narrators:||Holter Graham and a full cast|
|date read:||25 June 2021|
|rating:||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
This is a collection of oral histories from 9/11: the book is almost entirely made of quotes from different people’s accounts – and the quotes are carefully combined to form a coherent narrative.
I only have vague memories of 9/11, and I didn’t really get why it was such a big deal. I remember Mum getting a phone call from somebody and sounding shocked, and watching it on the TV, but I was too young to understand.
The accounts in this book helped me understand why 9/11 is such a big deal, and the scale of devastation and shock. Hearing dozens of people explain how it affected them really left an impression – and how it affected them on the day, not just the aftermath.
A few things I was struck by:
The American astronaut on the ISS, who was scrambling to find cameras to take photographs of the US as they orbited overhead. Even though the destruction was on the ground, they could see the vanishing contrails.
How many people were in disbelief that a passenger jet could hit a building, or that the WTC could collapse. In a post-9/11 world, we know both of those things are possible – but in 2001, they were new and seemed impossible.
Related: the degree of shock and concern over possible other attacks. In hindsight, we know that the danger was passed when the fourth plane crashed, but nobody could be sure of that on the day.
The relative difficulty of communications, compared to today. Pentagon staff learning they’d been hit by a plane from the TV news, or Air Force One being out of the loop.
The narrated version is excellent, and at time drops into the real audio – including the ATC messages and President Bush’s address. It’s a good way to hear more about a heavy topic.
I first heard of this book in a comment on Hacker News.
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