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102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers Hardcover – December 23, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 339 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, New York Times writers Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn vividly recreate the 102-minute span between the moment Flight 11 hit the first Twin Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the moment the second tower collapsed, all from the perspective of those inside the buildings--the 12,000 who escaped, and the 2,749 who did not. It's becoming easier, years later, to forget the profound, visceral responses the Trade Center attacks evoked in the days and weeks following September 11. Using hundreds of interviews, countless transcripts of radio and phone communications, and exhaustive research, Dwyer and Flynn bring that flood of responses back--from heartbreak to bewilderment to fury. The randomness of death and survival is heartbreaking. One man, in the second tower, survived because he bolted from his desk the moment he heard the first plane hit; another, who stayed at his desk on the 97th floor, called his wife in his final moments to tell her to cancel a surprise trip he had planned. In many cases, the deaths of those who survived the initial attacks but were killed by the collapse of the towers were tragically avoidable. Building code exemptions, communication breakdowns between firefighters and police, and policies put in place by building management to keep everyone inside the towers in emergencies led, the authors argue, to the deaths of hundreds who might otherwise have survived. September 11 is by now both familiar and nearly mythological. Dwyer and Flynn's accomplishment is recounting that day's events in a style that is stirring, thorough, and refreshingly understated. --Erica C. Barnett

From Publishers Weekly

Drawn from thousands of radio transcripts, phone messages, e-mails and interviews with eyewitnesses, this 9/11 account comes from the perspective of those inside the World Trade Center from the moment the first plane hit at 8:46 a.m. to the collapse of the north tower at 10:28 a.m. The stories are intensely intimate, and they often stir gut-wrenching emotions. A law firm receptionist quietly eats yogurt at her desk seconds before impact. Injured survivors, sidestepping debris and bodies, struggle down a stairwell. A man trapped on the 88th floor leaves a phone message for his fiancée: "Kris, there's been an explosion.... I want you to know my life has been so much better and richer because you were in it." Dwyer and Flynn, New York Times writers, take rescue agencies to task for rampant communications glitches and argue that the towers' faulty design helped doom those above the affected floors ("Their fate had been sealed nearly four decades earlier, when... fire stairs were eliminated as a wasteful use of valuable space"). In doing so, the authors frequently draw parallels to similar safety oversights aboard the ill-fated Titanic nearly 90 years before. Their reporting skills are exceptional; readers experience the chaos and confusion that unfolded inside, in grim, painstaking detail. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (January 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805076824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805076820
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (339 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rick Bryan on January 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Finally the story of what really happened inside will live forever. I've only been through it once but so far Dwyer has most of his facts straight, as far as I saw. Without intending to dishonor those who died that day, but out of respect for the truth, I will say the author is, believe it or not, kinder to the Fire Department then he might have been. Remember the term soldiers in Vietnam used for some of their missions? A cluster* operation? That more accurately describes the NYFD that day, with plenty of exceptions, obviously. Look at page 251: "If history is to be a tool for the living, it must be unflinchingly candid." Those paragraphs will cause sorrowful, heated arguments for a long time, but that's the truth. And again, whether they knew it or not, the authors might have been much harsher towards the NYFD 'brass'. Not only did hundreds of firefighters die needlessly, but so did many more people simply because the firemen slowed down the evacuation by clogging up the stairways.

I will also say that to some extent this factual reporting of the matter does not capture the sheer horror we went through. Yes, you do get a sense of what it was like via many, many passages throughout the book. No question about it. And it is true that on the staircase people were quite collegial about the whole thing (1 WTC, above 40, at least), even throwing around nervous jokes. But between those times the horror of *knowing beyond certainly* death is imminent overwhelmed everyone, again and again and again. It simply cannot be described, nor, do I think, imagined.

As I was searching through the blackness in the hallways for the other exit door I wondered how many breaths of smoke filled air one had to take before passing out.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a vividly rendered book, not remotely exploitative and yet so unflinching in the reportage that it demands your attention and ultimately earns your heart. Authors Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, both from the New York Times, make this inevitably moving book suspenseful, almost surreal and ultimately a reflection of the human condition under the most dire of circumstances. As comprehensive as the revelatory "9/11 Commission Report" is, the stories in this book represent the missing perspective of that horrifying day, the voices of those who survived and perished in the World Trade Center.

What the authors are effective in capturing is how endless those 102 minutes seemed to the people inside the buildings, how the period between the first crash and the collapse of the north tower was so chaotic that the full scope of what happened was unknown to those trapped inside. Because we were able to watch the news coverage relentlessly that morning, the book clarifies that what was happening was far clearer from the outside than from the inside. Those inside had no way of knowing what happened to them or why, and certainly no way to know if they would live or die. There are stories of personal ingenuity and heroism, like the window washer who used his squeegee to scrape away a wall and manually bored himself and five others through a tiled wall in the 50th floor men's room. There are stories of paralyzing fear, such as the series of 911 calls from the various floors when the south tower started to collapse. And sadly there are stories that will be disappointing for the very acts of desperation they represent, such as people being pushed out of windows so that others could position themselves for fresh air and possible rescue.
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Format: Hardcover
As a survivor of that day, I was on the 98th floor of Tower 2 this book says it all. This is a gripping, well told, accurate account of the horror of many many lives. The authors put into words what so many of us could not for those frightening and unbelievable 102 minutes. A must read for all Americans.
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Format: Hardcover
The journalists Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have captured 102 of the most terrifying minutes any group of people have ever faced. The authors focus tightly and breathtakingly on the events in and directly around the towers from the moment of the first plane's impact until the last tower comes down. There is nothing but that story and it is told with great skill from a great many viewpoints, both from workers inside the tower and from rescuers entering the towers. They combine their account effectively with just enough information for the reader to get a little background into the personalities involved and the various elements that structurally in the towers themselves whiced added to or relieved the crisis. This book's strong focus on the fight for survival within the towers makes it an invaluable resource and a testement to what happened that day.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading this tremendous book - a few things were very clear to me: true heros were not just the firefighters and the police, they were (to a large extent) just "average joes" working in the twin towers and secondly - the complete lack of clear, concise communication between the Fire Dept. and the Police Dept. played a huge part in getting or not getting people out of those buildings alive. One chapter mentions that up to 200 firefighters were "resting" on the 19th floor of one of the towers when two Port Authority Police officers ran by, having heard over their radios from both police and fire commanders to get out of the the building - that it was going to collapse. These remarks were passed to the firefighters on the 19th floor, all of whom choose to ignore the urgency in the statement. For the fire dept. not to have a radio system in place where their personnel could clearly hear their instructions to leave the towers - well - it made me feel sick. And from what I've heard since this tragic day - nothing has been resolved. There is still a huge rivalry between the two depts, there has been no efforts to get the fire dept. a better system of communication, a system that will allow commanders to be heard no matter where their firefighters are within a building - it is almost shameful that a great city like New York has a problem like this. I live in Calgary Canada, and all our rescue agencies (Fire / Police/ EMS)work together daily - making every effort to leave their "egos" at the door in order to save and sustain lives. New York needs to step up to the plate and get their collective butts in gear to rectify this situation or they may not be prepared if something like this should ever happen again.
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