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Review: 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn

The dramatic and moving account of the struggle for life inside the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, when every minute counted

At 8:46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the twin towers-reading e-mails, making trades, eating croissants at Windows on the World. Over the next 102 minutes, each would become part of a drama for the ages, one witnessed only by the people who lived it-until now.

Of the millions of words written about this wrenching day, most were told from the outside looking in. “New York Times” reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the opposite-and far more revealing-approach. Reported from the perspectives of those inside the towers, “102 Minutes” captures the little-known stories of ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to save themselves and others. Beyond this stirring panorama stands investigative reporting of the first rank. An astounding number of people actually survived the plane impacts but were unable to escape, and the authors raise hard questions about building safety and tragic flaws in New York’s emergency preparedness.

Dwyer and Flynn rely on hundreds of interviews with rescuers, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts. They cross a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos, seeing cataclysm and heroism, one person at a time, to tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women-the nearly 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished-as they made 102 minutes count as never before. “102 Minutes” is a 2005 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

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102 Minutes has been updated over the years as new information is released to the public about the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. This novel includes multiple first hand accounts from the survivors of that day and pieces together some of the final moments for several who perished.

The events of that day changed life for many of us. It didn’t matter that I was 16 and lived in Louisiana. I recall huddling around the television as the events unfolded. I felt the knot in my stomach as my brain recalled some trivial fact about the allowable sway for tall buildings, and how this led to the realization that the towers would not survive the day (at least in their entirety).

For me, the authors’ coverage of the life of the towers from conception to destruction, helps to clarify some lingering questions I have seen posed over the years.  For some skeptics, the idea that jet fuel could never burn hot enough to destroy the towers is a big area of contention. Perhaps it isn’t enough to persuade these individuals of what really transpired on that day. I can only hope that we have learned from the mistakes in the construction and maintenance of skyscrapers. It may even lead to the types of changes that allow more people to survive when devastating events happen (though I hope they never do).

This may be a novel that is difficult for some people. However, I feel that the authors presented the facts and stories from survivors with respect and grace. As the 20th anniversary approaches, we can only hope that the final chapters of this day can soon be written through advances in science that will allow us to identify the remains that still lay unclaimed.

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About Kristine

As an aspiring author, avid bookworm, fitness fanatic and dedicated mother, there just aren't enough hours in the day. I write or post about things I'm passionate about and spend my time trying to make the most of every day. Life may be a tough journey, but I have my ruby red slippers and am content on skipping along this yellow brick road until the end of the line.

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