Vermont journalist’s new 9/11 book captures how Americans lived that day

Local News

In the hours after the terror attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, there was just one aircraft still flying over the US: Air Force One.

Journalist Garrett Graf, a Montpelier native, uses that image as the title of his new book, “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11.”

In an interview with Local 22 & Local 44’s Lauren Maloney, Graff says the book allows 480 Americans to tell their personal stories of how the attacks effected their lives.

“When we say ‘never forget’ today on 9/11, what we, I think, are in danger of doing is boiling the day down to the facts of the day – 4 planes, 19 hijackers, the Pentagon, Twin Towers, Shanksville,” Graff says.

“What is lost is really what that day was like to live.”

Graff, 38, is a former editor of Politico Magazine and a former editor-in-chief of Washingtonian magazine. His books include “The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House,” which examined the role of technology in the 2008 presidential race; and “The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI,” which traces the history of the FBI’s counter-terrorism efforts. 

Billed as “the most comprehensive, minute-by-minute account of the September 11 attacks yet,” Graff’s book draws on interviews and stories from government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members

In a recent review, the Wall Street Journal said the book gives readers “poignant, often distressing, vignettes and impressions of the day and its aftermath. On page after page, a reader will encounter words that startle, or make him angry, or heartbroken, or queasy.”

Graff says he sought to capture how Americans lived through a human drama that changed them and the world.

“The story of what we know now transpired on 9/11 took place in 102 minutes, the first crash, the second collapse of the second tower,” he says. “And yet on that day we didn’t know when it began or when it ended, and we didn’t know whether there would be more attacks the next day, the day after, or in October.  We didn’t know what the rest of our lives held for this.”

Graff’s interview airs 10 a.m. Sunday on What Matters This Week with Lauren Maloney on Local 22. You can also see it on Local 44 at 10:30 p.m.

He is scheduled to talk about the book at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at Phoenix Books in Burlington.

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