To be sure, no one who picks up this “graphic adaptation” should presume that it is a full representation of the facts presented in the over five hundred page official record, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. One should rather consider this a primer on the intricate and detailed information provided in that almost encyclopedic report. The average American is not so much lacking in the ability to read the report as the dry tone, complicated discussions, and numerical data can prove quite overwhelming. This book creates an accessible avenue by which people can better conceptualize the larger document.
Steeped in black glossy paper, the first twenty-five pages of this book provide the parallel timelines of Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 from 7:58AM to 10:30AM on the morning of September 11, 2001. With each passing page, readers can follow which plane was at what stage in the overall scheme of what transpired. It’s a valuable reference to frame what exactly happened, particularly for those who lived through it and have trouble remembering the exact course of events (because, let’s face it, if you were awake while it was happening that day, you certainly dealt with a fair share of confusion and chaos).
From there, the book explores how the country immediately handled it then goes into long-term response and action taken on behalf of the United States in regard to the attack. The book also looks at the causes of 9/11, including a chapter on “The Foundation of the New Terrorism,” which looks at the rise of Osama Bin Laden and his previously enacted terrorist attacks throughout the world. Other chapters and sections consider the U.S.’s counterterrorism tactics, how the terrorists infiltrated U.S. soil, points at which the attack may have been prevented, and initial response strategies on the day of the attack. The most abhorrently presented item comes in the last pages of the book, where the Commission presents a “Report Card” in December 2005 after publishing the initial report. With three F’s, twelve D’s, and nine C’s out of a total of thirty-nine grades, the report card leaves readers feeling rather uncertain about the administration’s ability to prevent another attack.
Without directly comparing the actual report, some suspicion remains on the objectivity of Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. A report such as this should be delivered with as much objectivity as possible, not attempting to evoke emotion or bias beyond what the facts represent. This is where the “graphic adaptation” does just that; it visually presents certain biases. What is meant by this is that, on average, any reader could identify the villains versus the heroes based solely on facial sketches. This goes beyond identifying Arab versus American characters but resonates in the dark, brooding, and sometimes sinister appearance of many of the terrorists, contrasted with deep penetrating, square-jawed determined look of those vested in U.S. safety. Other subtleties in the presentation of characters exist that can taint readers’ opinion about the nature of the character, which to some degree turn this book more into a narrative than a report and by doing so, take a liberal interpretation of the term “adaptation.”
Yet, when it comes down to it, this book provides an intriguing intersection of factual document and a traditionally fictional medium. Add to it, that the authors manage to inject voluminous amounts of information and the final product is impressive. Though only 134 pages long, devouring it in one reading is not recommended. There is a lot of nuance and taking time to absorb it all is best.