The Only Plane in the Sky | Garrett M. Graff

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


The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff gives readers a detailed and immersive account of the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. The author draws from extensive interviews, broadcasts, and written accounts, painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the day that changed the world forever. This book summary details the panic on the hijacked planes, the chaos as the Twin Towers burned and collapsed, the heroic stories of first responders, and the shock experienced by leaders like President George W. Bush. Prepare to relive this monumental day and understand its lasting impact on American society and global politics.

The Tragic Events of 9/11

On September 10, 2001, Monika Bravo captured the beauty of a storm on video from the 92nd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The next day, 19 hijackers seized control of four planes and attacked the United States. Flight 11 hit the North Tower, followed by Flight 125 hitting the South Tower. Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, and another hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania. This was the first time in history that a hijacked plane was used as a weapon, and the coordinated attacks caused widespread devastation. The events of 9/11 were a stark reminder of the randomness of life and the role of luck in survival.

9/11: The Unthinkable Happened

On September 11, 2001, the US defense system was caught off guard as a result of prioritizing external threats and neglecting the possibility of internal threats. When American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, NORAD was given orders to shoot down any confirmed hijacked commercial plane. Every US aircraft was directed to land at the nearest safe destination, leading to the landing of 4,500 planes in less than two hours. It was concluded that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack. Despite warnings about al-Qaeda, the military neglected the threat. At the World Trade Center, firefighters were unable to reach the trapped victims above the impact zone, where fires raged and smoke consumed oxygen. Driven to desperation, people began jumping from the towers. The attacks left America uncertain about the future and fearful of what might happen next.

The Chaos of 9/11

In the hour preceding the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, first responders rushed in, while those in the North Tower had to use the stairs to evacuate. As the debris rained down, people ran for their lives and first responders triaged the injured to find few critical cases. The world watched the disaster unfold in real-time but survivors on the ground were met with chaos as they ran from the massive clouds of debris. Those who escaped walked across Brooklyn Bridge or to Battery Park, while maritime rescue operations evacuated almost half a million people. Those who remain were left to navigate the aftermath of the disaster with the help of fellow New Yorkers.

Tragedy Unfolds on Live TV

The events of September 11, 2001, unfolded in real-time on television around the world. While most coverage focused on the Twin Towers, other tragedies were unfolding. The Pentagon was hit, and people inside were told to go back to work the next day. Meanwhile, passengers on Flight 93 became heroes when they stormed the cockpit to thwart a planned attack on the Capitol. The tragedy lasted only 102 minutes but left a lasting impact on those who witnessed it on their screens.

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