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

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“This is history at its most immediate and moving…A marvelous and memorable book.” —Jon Meacham

“Remarkable…A priceless civic gift…On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Visceral...I repeatedly cried…This book captures the emotions and unspooling horror of the day.” —NPR

“Had me turning each page with my heart in my throat…There’s been a lot written about 9/11, but nothing like this. I urge you to read it.” —Katie Couric

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from the voices of Americans on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.

Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which traced the rise of al-Qaeda, to The 9/11 Commission Report, the government’s definitive factual retrospective of the attacks. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through the voices of the people who experienced it.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York City, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker underneath the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard the small number of unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United Flight 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.
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About the author

Garrett M. Graff, a magazine journalist and historian, has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security. He’s written for publications from Wired to The New York Times, and served as the editor of two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and POLITICO Magazine. His books include Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die, The Threat Matrix: The FBI War in the Age of Global Terror and The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Sep 10, 2019
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Pages
512
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ISBN
9781501182228
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / United States
History / United States / 21st Century
Political Science / Terrorism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An intimate look at Robert Mueller, the sixth Director of the FBI, who has just been named special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials.
Covering more than 30 years of history, from the 1980s through Obama's presidency, The Threat Matrix explores the transformation of the FBI from a domestic law enforcement agency, handling bank robberies and local crimes, into an international intelligence agency--with more than 500 agents operating in more than 60 countries overseas--fighting extremist terrorism, cyber crimes, and, for the first time, American suicide bombers.
Based on access to never-before-seen task forces and FBI bases from Budapest, Hungary, to Quantico, Virginia, this book profiles the visionary agents who risked their lives to bring down criminals and terrorists both here in the U.S. and thousands of miles away long before the rest of the country was paying attention to terrorism. Given unprecedented access, thousands of pages of once secret documents, and hundreds of interviews, Garrett M. Graff takes us inside the FBI and its attempt to protect America from the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the attempted Times Square bombing in 2010. It also tells the inside story of the FBI's behind-the-scenes fights with the CIA, the Department of Justice, and five White Houses over how to combat terrorism, balance civil liberties, and preserve security. The book also offers a never-before-seen intimate look at FBI Director Robert Mueller, the most important director since Hoover himself.
Brilliantly reported and suspensefully told, The Threat Matrix peers into the darkest corners of this secret war and will change your view of the FBI forever.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group.

In her new preface, Jane Mayer discusses the results of the most recent election and Donald Trump's victory, and how, despite much discussion to the contrary, this was a huge victory for the billionaires who have been pouring money in the American political system.

Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? In a riveting and indelible feat of reporting, Jane Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats—headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys—who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Mayer traces a byzantine trail of billions of dollars spent by the network, revealing a staggering conglomeration of think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies that have fallen under their sphere of influence. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
LA Times Book Prize Finalist
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalist
Shortlisted for the Lukas Prize
The shocking truth about the government’s secret plans to survive a catastrophic attack on US soil—even if the rest of us die—is “a frightening eye-opener” (Kirkus Reviews) that spans the dawn of the nuclear age to today, and "contains everything one could possibly want to know" (The Wall Street Journal).

Every day in Washington, DC, the blue-and-gold first Helicopter Squadron, codenamed “MUSSEL,” flies over the Potomac River. As obvious as the Presidential motorcade, most people assume the squadron is a travel perk for VIPs. They’re only half right: while the helicopters do provide transport, the unit exists to evacuate high-ranking officials in the event of a terrorist or nuclear attack on the capital. In the event of an attack, select officials would be whisked by helicopters to a ring of secret bunkers around Washington, even as ordinary citizens were left to fend for themselves.

“In exploring the incredible lengths (and depths) that successive administrations have gone to in planning for the aftermath of a nuclear assault, Graff deftly weaves a tale of secrecy and paranoia” (The New York Times Book Review) with details "that read like they've been ripped from the pages of a pulp spy novel" (Vice). For more than sixty years, the US government has been developing secret Doomsday strategies to protect itself, and the multibillion-dollar Continuity of Government (COG) program takes numerous forms—from its potential to evacuate the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to the plans to launch nuclear missiles from a Boeing-747 jet flying high over Nebraska. Garrett M. Graff sheds light on the inner workings of the 650-acre compound, called Raven Rock, just miles from Camp David, as well as dozens of other bunkers the government built for its top leaders during the Cold War, from the White House lawn to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado to Palm Beach, Florida, and the secret plans that would have kicked in after a Cold War nuclear attack to round up foreigners and dissidents and nationalize industries. Equal parts a presidential, military, and cultural history, Raven Rock tracks the evolution of the government plan and the threats of global war from the dawn of the nuclear era through the War on Terror.
From America’s preeminent columnist, named by the Financial Times the most influential commentator in the nation, a must-have collection of Charles Krauthammer’s essential, timeless writings.
 
A brilliant stylist known for an uncompromising honesty that challenged conventional wisdom at every turn, Krauthammer dazzled readers for decades with his keen insight into politics and government. His weekly column was a must-read in Washington and across the country. Don’t miss the best of Krauthammer’s intelligence, erudition and wit collected in one volume.
 
Readers will find here not only the country’s leading conservative thinker offering a pas­sionate defense of limited government, but also a highly independent mind whose views—on feminism, evolution and the death penalty, for example—defy ideological convention. Things That Matter also features several of Krautham­mer’s major path-breaking essays—on bioeth­ics, on Jewish destiny and on America’s role as the world’s superpower—that have pro­foundly influenced the nation’s thoughts and policies. And finally, the collection presents a trove of always penetrating, often bemused re­flections on everything from border collies to Halley’s Comet, from Woody Allen to Win­ston Churchill, from the punishing pleasures of speed chess to the elegance of the perfectly thrown outfield assist.
 
With a special, highly autobiographical in­troduction in which Krauthammer reflects on the events that shaped his career and political philosophy, this indispensible chronicle takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the fashions and follies, the tragedies and triumphs, of the last three decades of American life.
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