As the anniversary of September 11 rolls around every year, Americans reflect on one of our country’s greatest tragedies, the terrorist attacks on the United States and the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The events of 9/11 have been chronicled and detailed and analyzed and agonized over in the passing years as Americans try to come to terms and make sense of the tragedy. The best books about September 11 attempt to explain what happened that Tuesday morning and to give comfort to grieving Americans.
As the world tried to make sense of the attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush formed The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. In 2004, this commission released the official 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The report, the official and exhaustive account of the events of September 11, is available for download at the commission’s official website and sold in bookstores everywhere. For those who may not want to read the full report, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson transforms the report’s information into a gripping narrative with illustrations.
Personal stories of the victims in the air and in the World Trade Center are the subject of many best books about the September 11 attacks. In 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, Kevin Flynn and Jim Dwyer use their meticulous research, transcripts, and interviews to tell the story of the collapse of the World Trade Center from the perspective of the people trapped inside. Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11 by Damon DiMarco and Thomas Kean incorporates the victims’ stories, as well as the testimonies of other New Yorkers who were affected by the attacks. Lynn Spencer retells the attacks from the perspective of those who watch the skies, the air-traffic controllers and pilots who were on duty that day in Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11.
Images of the attacks on 9/11 will be embedded in all Americans’ memories as most of us watched events unfold on television that morning. For a pictorial remembrance, Life Magazine has the best collection with its One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001.
In understanding what led to the attacks, an accurate depiction of terrorism and the events leading up to September 11 is described in The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
In the years since 9/11, novelists have incorporated the attacks, the circumstances surrounding them, and the effects on the victims in their fiction. The hero of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is nine-year-old Oskar Schell, whose father was killed in the September 11 attacks. As Oskar searches New York for a lock that fits a key left by his father, his quest involves understanding the tragedy that took his father. Falling Man by Don DeLillo, the story of Keith Neudecker, a survivor of the attack, takes its title from the real-life photograph of a man who jumped or fell from the North Tower on 9/11.
Children who may hear about September 11 but cannot yet understand its impact, might enjoy picture books like Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman or September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right a collection of stories and drawings by students at Masterson Elementary in Kennett Missouri. Older kids might enjoy With Their Eyes: September 11th-The View from a High School at Ground Zero by Annie Thoms or September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City by Wilborn Hampton.
Humans are natural storytellers. Stories help us to manage and make sense of our lives, especially the fearsome circumstances or tragedies that sometimes happen. For many years to come, readers will turn to books about September 11 to help understand the tragedy that occurred that day.
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