REVIEW: September 11, 2001 – The Day the World Changed Forever(2021)

A Graphic Novel by

I truthfully wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this one – mostly because of all of the baggage that comes with 9-11 here in the US. I am honestly dreading the 20th anniversary of the event next month due to the two types of people that seem to base their entire existence on the tragedy of all those years ago. On one hand, you have fake patriotism wielded by people that want to silence any sort of nuanced discussion on world affairs by saying “but, what about 9-11?!” They wave flags and lecture folks even though most of them aren’t actually real patriots in any way. They use 9-11 to justify all manner of questionable “diplomacy”, such as torture or unfair trials. Then you have the conspiracy guys, to which I see 9-11 as the progenitor of of the insane dumpster fire of modern conspiranoia. With that in mind, I rolled the dice with this book mostly because it’s from Europe – I figured it would be free of the two types of “9-11 guys” I would rather not deal with. Was my gamble worth it?

“What do younger generations know about the terrible tragedy that shook America and the world on September 11, 2001? In this gripping documentary work by journalist Baptiste Bouthier and illustrator Heloïse Chochois, we first learn about the historic day from several inside perspectives. In the second half, the authors take stock of 9/11 in the days, weeks, and years that followed, from traumatized America to George W. Bush’s crusade against the “axis of evil.” A not-be-missed piece of graphic non-fiction, published 20 years after the events in question.”

The story in this book is told via the perspective of a French woman named Juliette, who was in high school when the 9-11 attacks occurred. She recollects the uneasiness and terror of those days when her family were glued to the television watching as thousands of people were crushed and burned to death in the worst attack ever on US soil from a foreign adversary. I think my generation can relate to this a lot, being 19 myself when the attacks happened. I recall going to a college class and finding out that most of my classes were cancelled and huddling around the TV in the Student Union to see what happened. I was immediately fearful of “World War 3” starting and whether I had to worry about a draft and such. while unlikely, that’s the sort of thing that was running though many heads. These scenes of her watching TV and trying to lead a “normal life” in the subsequent days bookend other tales of people in the towers themselves, trying to fight for survival and sometimes succeeding, usually not. It was heartbreaking seeing the scenes of all the people that insisted going to the roof of the building, knowing that literally none of them would survive.

It was interesting to note that the author covered some of the “dark side” of all of the 9-11 aftermath – topics such as rampant anti-Muslim racism, conspiracy theories, increased militarism, and eventually a push to a 20 year war that we are literally just now getting out of in 2021. There is also a good bit of historical content in the book, discussing the attackers and the fallout from the attacks as it relates to the world at large. The balance of narrative and information in this book reminds me of some of the “war comics” I’ve been reading and was a welcome surprise.

Despite my reservations on the topic of 9-11, this comic was very well done, and not a heavy-handed propaganda piece. The script is very good and understandable, and the artwork is simplistic, yet pleasant to look at. This book does a great job, as it encompasses the heroism of the New York firefighters, the plight of the victims, and even the mental anguish of many watching from home miles and miles away. I was glad to see the aftermath in both good and bad terms, and how 9-11 basically created more issues for us. I hope people can look at a work like this and look back at the events of the past 20 years and actually learn something rather than drape a flag around their bigotry and use it for all manner of bad things. Here’s hoping we’ve finally moved on from these events, and are starting a new chapter in American History.

If you are interested in copy of this book, click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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