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102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being only 8 or 9 years old when 9/11 happened, I started this book looking to grasp this most definitive time in our country’s history.

The power of 102 Minutes lies in its vivid and detailed description of both the Towers’ inhabitants and the structure of the buildings and emergency departments. We get some of the why and much of the how connected to the rescue operation on that tragic day. Dwyer and Flynn deftly mingle the construction history (of the Trade Centers and building codes of the time), department rivalry (between Police and Fire), and individual heroism that composed so much of September 11.

The emotional response lies in what could have been: if the doors weren’t as electronic, if he’d chosen to leave instead of stay, if only they knew about the open staircase in the South Tower, if only the disconnect between the Fire and Police were not as horrendous. The images are shocking and heart-wrenching, yet the choice of some to, of their own accord, join the rescue effort instead of stay home or escape themselves, is truly inspiring and poignant.

I’ve learned so much about 9/11 from this book. The inside story, the impact it had on the people there, the rush of it all, the ignorance of so many within the Towers that we were being attacked. The writing style engages the reader and brings him as much as possible into this terrible world. Dwyer and Flynn guides us sensibly through the buildings and through time, highlighting many men and women so that they are no more empty names and faces, but the individual lives that they were. I highly commend the authors’ effort in bringing their stories alive.

The epilogue says it all – from its frame of the few minutes after the Towers fell to its center of passive narrative on 9/11 and the global scope of that day. The final survivors highlighted represent the theme of Dwyer and Flynn’s work: that is was ordinary men and women, many working outside department connections, many just working beyond the call of duty, who carried the day and helped stem the tide of total disaster.

I finished this book enlightened on the events and the meaning, the sadness and confusion, of that tragic, monumental day.

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