Upon Putting Down “The Only Plane in the Sky”

Reflections from my reading

Adam Fearnall
3 min readApr 18, 2020

I finished The Only Plane in the Sky today. The book is an oral history of 9/11 written by Garrett M. Graff.

I ordered it from Bookmark Halifax during the second week of the COVID-19 shutdown. I felt sheepish ordering it because I have another Garrett M. Graff book, Raven Rock, sitting, mostly unread, on my shelf (I had a brief email exchange with Garrett in 2017 after reading an adaptation from Raven Rock called The President’s Secret Airforce). I overcame my not-actually-real sense of shame, placed the order, and received it on my porch the next day.

A few things stood out to me after I finished the book:

Oral Histories Matter

I marveled at the people who had recorded the stories of 9/11. I thought about how books like these couldn’t be written without the people who had collected these histories.

Big Projects Take Time

I noticed the skill and commitment that it took Graff and his team to gather the right pieces of story needed to stitch together a narrative about 9/11. I wondered if the project had felt overwhelming at the beginning and how long it took before it felt like completion was possible.

The Word “our”

I wondered about the first “our” in George W. Bush’s remarks from the Oval Office on the night of September 11th. He said, “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack…” I wondered if the phrase “our fellow citizens” struck anyone else as a strange grammatical choice. I wondered why he hadn’t said, “my fellow citizens.”

Obama’s First Call After Bin Laden

I understood Obama’s choice to make George W. Bush the first phone call that he made after after Osama Bin Laden was killed.

The Idea of America

I noticed how angry and fearful political and military leaders felt and how often they expressed their fear and anger in response to an attack on the symbols and ideas of America.

Reacting From a Position of Power

I empathized with the thousands of small choices that George W. Bush was making from the moment…



Adam Fearnall

Human, Organizer, Baseball Fan, Singer/Songwriter for @bethechase