In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years After the 9/11 Attacks

HMH. Aug. 2021. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780358223573.
Gr 7 Up–Brown’s latest work of graphic nonfiction revisits September 11, 2001, and its aftermath in time for the tragedy’s 20th anniversary. While filming a documentary about New York firefighters, French filmmaker Jules Naudet shifts his lens skyward as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are struck by airliners and, ultimately, collapse. Using vivid phrases like “debris-strewn whirlwind,” “ocean of rubble,” and “snowfall of papers,” Brown captions emotional illustrations that depict the wreckage of the towers and, later, the Pentagon. Scenes of family members and first responders alike searching for survivors in the following days, weeks, and months are juxtaposed with depictions of the United States’ response to the attacks, including war in the Middle East and a rise in Islamaphobic incidents domestically. Alternating between war and recovery, the remaining pages end with a ceremony one year later where the names of the 2,753 victims are read aloud. Though for a different and more mature audience, Brown’s second attempt at covering this topic (after 2011’s America Is Under Attack) is a more comprehensive look at the tragedy for an older audience. With a palette of mostly cool or ashy watercolors, the red heat of the destruction abruptly and noticeably pops off the page. Varied panel layouts capture the frenetic pace of the emergency, while spreads offer powerful moments of pause. Detailed back matter includes an afterword, sobering statistics, source notes, and an extensive bibliography. Most of the subjects featured in the book are white.
VERDICT A succinct and impactful look at one of America’s worst tragedies, skillfully rendered by one of comics journalism’s best.

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