The Only Plane in the Sky

JB Shreve
September 5, 2021 3 mins to read
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The United States will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on Saturday. Most of us simply call it 9/11, and everyone knows what we are talking about when we say 9/11.

In prior podcast episodes, I described defining generational moments as a historical event where everyone alive at that time can instantly recall where they were and what they were doing when they got the news. The assassination of JFK. The attacks on Pearl Harbor. 9/11. The world changed at these defining moments. We knew it would change when the historical event occurred, but few could predict what would have happened.

Imagine a world without 9/11—a world where you could still carry a pocket knife onto a plane. A world where there was no invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, there likely would have been no President Obama, no President Trump, no ISIS. It is an alternate timeline of history that disappeared in the clear blue skies of 9/11.

I have watched many documentaries about 9/11, even the World Trade Center movie and United 93. (I was surprised by how those movies were both better than I expected and still seemed “too soon.”) I find that every film and documentary I watch about the terror attacks leave me wanting for a little more. In most books I have read, 9/11 is the background to the political or historical topic I am researching.

This year my mom recommended The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001.



Frankly, I did not know what an oral history was. It is a recording of personal accounts of what occurred on 9/11. No politics. No analysis. Just a historical record from the people who personally lived through the events of 9/11 in New York, Washington DC, and the family members of those on United 93.

I found this book to be excellent. I listened to it as an audiobook while I did chores around the house. It was difficult to push pause in many instances. The audio version of the book provided the actual recordings of some parts of the history, such as the dialogue with air traffic control and audio from the cockpits on the planes.

I particularly found it intriguing to learn the final thoughts and acts of those who believed they were dying. This was it! What did they do, and what did they think at that moment? The stories of the switchboard operator who spoke to the passengers on United 93 were incredible.

The book provides a moment-by-moment personal account of 9/11 from a host of different perspectives.

No doubt, this week will be full of many memorials and remembrances of 9/11. I highly recommend this book, the audio version, as a go-to for a good read this week.