September 11

2021 is the 20th anniversary of the four coordinated terrorist attacks that occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001, in the United States. Nineteen terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes, deliberately crashing two of the planes into the upper floors of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center complex and a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The Twin Towers ultimately collapsed because of the damage sustained from the impacts and the resulting fires. After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C. The attacks killed 2,977 people from 93 nations: 2,753 people were killed in New York; 184 people were killed at the Pentagon; and 40 people were killed on Flight 93. The terrorists did not have the capacity to destroy the United States militarily, so they set their sights on symbolic targets instead. The Twin Towers, as the centerpieces of the World Trade Center, symbolized globalization and America’s economic power and prosperity. The Pentagon, as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense, serves as a symbol of American military power. It is thought that Flight 93 was headed to the Capitol building, the center of American legislative government. Learn more.

In remembrance, we've created a related staff picks list of reading and viewing material. You might also be interested in these seven podcasts about 9/11.

Adult Fiction

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer
Adult Fiction - Foer

The story of 9 year old Oskar coming to terms in his own way with the loss of his father on 9/11.

Falling Man

Don DeLillo
Adult Fiction - Delillo

This novel follows a man who escapes the The World Trade Center on 9/11 looking at the impact the event has on his life, his son’s, and his estranged wife.

The Looming Tower
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - Loo

Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian) star in this look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI inadvertently set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Lawrence Wright.

September 11: Eleven Short Films about 9/11

Eleven acclaimed directors each make an 11 minute short film in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The result is a daring and moving global cinematic reply that "forces us to look at the entire event afresh" (The New York Times). Featuring films by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Amores Perros); Mira Nair (The Namesake, Vanity Fair); Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley); Sean Penn (Into the Wild) and more.

World Trade Center [Motion picture : 2006]
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - Wor

Nicolas Cage stars in the unforgettable true story of the courage of two Port Authority policemen who were trapped in the rubble on September 11, 2001 after they volunteered to go in and help. Academy Award winning director, Oliver Stone reveals an intimate look at the events of the day as seen through the eyes of the survivors, their families and their rescuers.

Zero Dark Thirty
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - Zer

Chronicles the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden following the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of Navy SEAL Team 6.

Adult Nonfiction

The 9/11 Commission Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
Adult Nonfiction - 973.931 Na

The government’s “full and complete account” of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.

The 9/11 Commission Report [TV Documentary film : 2004]
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - 973.931 Nin

A comprehensive and objective look into the repercussions of the 9/11 Commission Reports controversial release, and the revealing findings described in the report itself.

9/11: Inside Air Force One

The documentary takes viewers aboard Air Force One and into the cockpits, command centers and underground bunkers across the country on one of the most challenging, confusing and terrifying days in American history.

9/11: Inside the Pentagon
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - 973.931 Nin

On September 11, 2001, 184 people lost their lives when American Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. Today, people are surprised to hear that the Pentagon was ever a target. Few know about those who escaped, many terrifyingly close to the impact zone. This is the most complete telling of what happened at the Pentagon on a day that forever changed our world.

Clear the Skies: 9/11 Air Defense
Adult Audiovisual - DVD - 973.931 Cle

When the unimaginable happened on September 11, 2001, 14 fighter planes took to the skies to carry out one urgent order: go to Condition Air Traffic Zero - clear the skies of all non-military aircraft. In less than three hours, those 14 planes were able to ensure the safe landings of the approximately 4,826 commercial and private planes that were in the air as the horrific events of 9/11 unfolded. Takes you behind the scenes of history in the making with personal accounts from the fighter pilots, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and others.

Days that Shaped America: September 11

Hear the harrowing experiences of a trader who worked in the World Trade Center, a firefighter, a Port Authority officer, an ER doctor, an NYPD rescue worker, and a news reporter who were at Ground Zero, as well as a Pentagon contractor, an Airfone operator communicating with Flight 93, and the head of FAA operations as they experienced the tragic unfolding of a day none had dreamed possible.

A Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends

Dennis Smith, Deirdre Smith
Adult Nonfiction - 974.7104 Smi

Ten years after 9/11 Smith speaks with the first responders, their families, and the families of victims to discover the effects of the event and the resilience of the survivors.

Frontline: The Interrogator

In a rare interview with Ali Soufan, one of only eight Arabic-speaking FBI agents who was at the center of the 9/11 investigations, FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith uncovers an insider's view of the "war on terror.

Road to 9/11

Three-part documentary exploring the long-term causes of the horrific events of 9/11, beginning in the early nineties.

YA Fiction

All We Have Left

Wendy Mills
Young Adult Fiction - Y Mills

In interweaving stories of sixteen-year-olds, modern-day Jesse tries to cope with the ramifications of her brother's death on 9/11, while in 2001, Alia, a Muslim, gets trapped in one of the Twin Towers and meets a boy who changes everything for her as flames rage around them. Now: Jesse is still coping with her brother's death on 9/11 and the way her dad filled their home with anger and grief. When one thoughtless decision turns her life upside down, she must face the past to make amends. Then: Alia is a proud Muslim, visiting her father at his office in one of the Twin Towers. Trapped in the flames, she has no choice but to trust a boy she's just met.

Hope and Other Punchlines

Julie Buxbaum
Young Adult Fiction - Y Buxbaum

Rendered famous by a viral photograph taken of her as a baby against the backdrop of the September 11 attacks, Abbi longs for anonymity at a summer camp job, where a fellow counselor whose own life was shattered by the attacks challenges her to ask difficult questions.

Love Is the Higher Law

David Levithan
Young Adult Fiction - Y Levitha

Three New York City teens express their reactions to the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and its impact on their lives and the world.

The Memory of Things

Gae Polisner
Y Polisne

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down, then while fleeing home to safety, he finds a girl covered in ash who has no memory.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea takes place one year after 9/11 and follows Shirin, who endures cruelty from the community around her due to her religion and the fact that she wears a hijab. She uses music as an escape, until she meets a boy who is willing to get to know her as a full person. This book expounds upon the complicated relationships we have with the people around us, and the importance of holding true to one's values, even in the face of immense prejudice.

Children's Fiction

Ground Zero

Alan Gratz
Juvenile Fiction - J Gratz

A dual tale published to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks finds a young boy struggling to find his father and escape the World Trade Center in 2001, before a girl in battle-torn 2020 Afghanistan risks her life to help a wounded soldier. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Towers Falling

Jewell Parker Rhodes
Juvenile Fiction - J Rhodes

While learning about September 11th, fifth grader Dáeja (born after the attacks) realizes how much the events still color her world. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Children's Nonfiction

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag

Amanda Davis
Juvenile Nonfiction - J 929.92 Dav

Evocative illustrations and straightforward text depict the inspiring story of the Ground Zero American flag, which traveled through all 50 states to be repaired with pieces from other retired historical flags before its establishment at the National September 11 Museum. Recommended for ages 4-8.

The Red Bandanna

Tom Rinaldi
Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Crowther Rin

The inspirational story of September 11 hero Welles Crowther traces his faith-based outlook on life, his position as a volunteer in his local fire department and desire to join the FDNY, and how he sacrificed his life to save people trapped in the South Tower. Recommended for ages 10-14.

This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth

Sean Rubin
Juvenile Nonfiction - J 974.7104 Rub

 A deeply moving story about community and resilience, from the point-of-view of the Callery pear tree that survived the attacks on September 11. Recommended for ages 4-8.