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Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out About That Unthinkable Day, What He's Learned, How He's Struggled, and What No One Should Ever Forget Hardcover – August 11, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Benfante’s memoir, Reluctant Hero, is a humbling and courageous one, detailing the struggle of an ordinary man who was forced to find strength he had only read about in books.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Benfante, catapulted to hero status after he was photographed carrying a wheelchair-bound woman down 68 floors and out of the World Trade Center, tells his post-9/11 tale of emotional and economic hardships and the seering guilt of a survivor.” (The Washington Post)

“Michael Benfante made national news when the media learned that he carried a wheelchair-bound woman down 68 flights of stairs in a burning World Trade Center. This memoir describes Benfante's unshakable belief that there are reservoirs of kindness waiting to be tapped.” (Houston Chronicle)

About the Author

Michael Benfante became a national hero for his actions on September 11, 2001, when he and a co-worker carried a disabled woman in a wheelchair down sixty-eight flights of stairs and out of the World Trade Center North Tower to safety, just minutes before the tower imploded. He is the recipient of a host of honors and international recognition and has testified at a U.S. Senatorial special hearing about his 9/11 experience. Benfante is a 1987 Brown University graduate. He currently lives with his wife and his son in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Dave Hollander is an author and columnist writing on sports and social issues in national publications including The Huffington Post, AOL Sports, SI.com, and Interview. Hollander serves on the faculty for the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. Hollander lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; First Edition edition (August 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616082852
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616082857
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,172,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The church library where I work recently had the opportunity to host Michael Benfante as a speaker. Many members of the congregation read the book before he came to town, and virtually everyone tore through it in one or two days. All those who came to return their copy to the library walked in open-mouthed, saying the same thing: "Wow." We own 25 copies of the book, and haven't been able to keep them on the shelves.

The first part of the book lays out Benfante's journey through hell on 9/11 in such unflinching detail that the experience felt immediate -- so much so that my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. That being said, the real story follows what happens to Michael after the 9/11 media storm dies down. As a reader, this part of the book was equally gripping as Michael struggles through frustration, self-annihilation, anger and despair described in his down-to-earth, take-no-prisoners voice. I won't give anything away here, but Michael goes down a heartbreaking, dark path that has you pleading with him to return to the confident, charismatic, successful guy he was before 9/11, wrapping up the whole thing in a pretty bow at the end. But life is not a Hallmark card; his eventual redemption, still a work in progress, lies in a simple yet powerful message he discovers in one small, beautiful moment with his young son.

Michael's hour-long presentation at my church left his audience transformed -- a powerful word, but the only way to adequately describe his influence. People stayed behind long after Benfante departed simply to discuss with each other how affected they were by his story and his not-preachy-but-nonetheless-spiritual message.
He states that writing this book was simply meant to be a cathartic exercise for him; he seems genuinely surprised by a generally-cynical public's positive embrace. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written book that really nails the human condition. This should be required reading for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
The author, Benfante, takes the reader on an emotional journey through the moments of the attack, the immediate aftermath and the incredibly complex psychological impact in the years to follow.

On every page I felt like I had the privilege of being right inside Benfante's mind--how many times have we thought, "I wonder what was going through the minds of the survivors?" Benfante lets it all hang out and shows the two sides of being hero: the persona that the public needs and requires of him and the personal anguish of keeping all his fears and tragic remembrances to himself.

While the story of him rescuing a wheelchair bound woman, with the help of his co-worker, is fascinating and we get to follow them step-by-step out of the burning tower, the end of the book focuses on the idea of fostering a more positive minded and socially responsible world, where we look out for each other and commit acts of kindness. Benfante maintains that it was his upbringing and general attitude of always looking to help others that compelled him to rescue the woman in the wheelchair. By the end of the book, I believe it!

It was refreshing to read about the darker days he encountered in the years following 9/11. His truthful account of what its like to be a regular guy in a hero's shell shows us that we can all overcome our fears and focus on what's important: family and not taking second chances (which we all get) for granted.

I would recommend this book to everyone!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having worked for Mike at the office in the World Trade Center and knowing him as a person before and after 9/11, I thought that I had an understanding of what he had went through on that day in 2001. This book not only expanded on his life and feelings during that experience, but also shared the sometimes painful reality of living in a post-9/11 world and how to cope and move on within it. This is a story that explores deep areas of the human soul and provides inspiration and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I highly recommend this book and express my gratitude to Mike for having the courage not only on 9/11 to do what he was nationally acclaimed for doing, but also to compile his story into this novel to share with the world and deliver a powerful message that has been lost and that many of us have since forgotten over the past 10 years.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was hard to put down..the author wrote in such a way that I felt I was right there during that tragic day on 9-11-01..the author and his co-worker were true heroes by carrying a disabled woman down many floors in the "North Tower"..I also enjoyed this book beacause I too, am a New Jerseyan..and in the 1st paragraph..the author comments on "going down the shore,"..but seriously,this is a very good book on that sad day..a must read!
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Format: Hardcover
On September 11, 2011 Michael Benfante reported to his job as a manager at a telecommunications firm on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center. When the planes crashed into the building, Benfante and his co-workers started working their way down the stairs. When they reached the 68th floor Benfante and one of his co-workers encountered a woman in a wheelchair. There were female co-workers staying with her but it was impossible for them to carry her down 68 floors. Benfante and his co-worker carried the woman down to the bottom and out of the building.

Reluctant Hero: A 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out About That Unthinkable Day, What He's Learned, How He's Struggled, and What No One Should Ever Forget is Benfante's account of not only what happened to him on that tragic day, but what happened to him in the ten years since September 11th, 2001.

Benfante became a celebrity for his actions on September 11th; he was showered with awards, feted on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and mentioned in a speech by the President of the United States. Almost one year to the day Benfante got married with the woman in the wheelchair as a guest at his wedding.

But while all this was going on, Benfante was grappling with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He refused to go get therapy and kept his feelings inside. He resorted to alcohol and other ways to keep his demons at bay.

This book is gripping. I really felt as if I was on the journey with him down the stairs of the World Trade Center. I was shocked when I realized that even after they got out of the building, he was almost killed by the tower collapsing. For some time he had no idea what had happened to the woman in the wheelchair.

Benfante has written this book as a kind of catharsis to finally come to grips with what happened on that day. The book is touching and he is unflinching as he admits that he hasn't always handled things very well.
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