Reflecting on 9/11

August 31, 2023 |
by: Carolyn Rees

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were when the news broke. For many, it was breakfast time. For me, I had just arrived home from school in Brussels, Belgium. My dad was on a business trip in North Carolina at the time and called to tell us to turn on the TV. Since then, I have attempted to make sense of that day. Books have the ability to help us question, understand, and heal. The following book recommendations span reading levels but are each valuable contributions to preserving the facts, details, and most importantly, human experiences of chance, suffering, and resilience from September 11, 2001.

How did it happen?
Lawrence Wright’s Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (DB 63287) (BR 17079) traces Islamic fundamentalism from 1948 to 2001. It is sweeping in its historical perspective but intimate in its providing context and exploration of the personalities that led to the emergence of Al-Qaeda.

What was it like that day?
How better to understand what it was like that day than to hear from those who were there? Garret Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 (DB 96933) (LP 35953) is a haunting comprehensive oral history. It begins in the predawn hours and includes voices drawn from never-before-published transcripts, original interviews and interviews with nearly five hundred ordinary people grappling with unfathomable events in real time.

An equally impactful chronicle of the immediate aftermath in New York City is In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks by Don Brown (DB 107253). While written for young adult readers, this graphic novel helps to broaden anyone’s understanding of the chain of events that followed the attack.

How do we find hope?
While all of these books have so many examples of finding hope in the midst of tragedy, two titles especially inspire awe. Flight 93: The Story, The Aftermath, and The Legacy of American Courage on 9/11 by Tom McMillan (DBC 17540) was recorded at LAMP and provides a wonderful amount of context for who exactly were the brave passengers of Flight 93 who faced an impossible decision with heroism and collaboration.

As LAMP’s Youth Services Librarian, I would be remiss not to include a picture book on this list. Sean Rubin’s This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth (DB 105101) is a book about a Callery pear tree that endured the terror attacks at the World Trade Center. Written in the tree’s voice, this title offers a beautiful meditation on what was discovered at Ground Zero in October 2001, and offers a poignant reflection on growth and renewal after destruction.