102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
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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.
Details of the brothers’ lives were reported in “Portraits of Grief,” by Jim Dwyer, New York Times, November 25, 2001, and in “‘He Was a Quiet Guy Who Made a Difference,’” by Jennifer Smith, Newsday, November 18, 2001. Kevin didn’t say much in reply: Joseph Pfeifer account to Firehouse, April 2002. They could not handle what confronted them: Deputy Chief Albert Turi, chief of safety, FDNY, interview by Kevin Flynn, May 2002. Each hose could shoot 250 gallons: Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn (ret.),
back to the truck rental agency and demanded a refund for his deposit on the van that he had just blown up—overshadowed deeper, more disturbing matters that emerged long after public attention in the crime had waned. The FBI, it developed, had had an informant inside the cell that carried out the bombing, but had fired him eight months before, in a dispute over his $500-a-week stipend. Afterward, the agency quietly hired him back—for $1.5 million—to penetrate other groups of Islamic radicals. The
fireman noticed it as he passed. “Hey!” he said. “I saw your ball, a few flights down.” A few floors down, more firefighters were coming up. One of them took a look at Charest’s club. “I saw your ball,” this fireman said. And, yes, it was a few flights down. The firefighters felt fear, of course. They just didn’t discuss it much. Worrying was counterproductive, and they generally buried their anxieties beneath a gruff jocularity that treated each job as just another hellhole. Firefighter
elevator, but had walked up the steps. Devery noticed Young on the 51st-floor landing. She seemed ready to faint, but then launched herself toward the stairs. Devery, exhausted by the climb, decided to go down the stairs with her, to make sure she got out. Not far behind them were Judy Wein, Gigi Singer, and Ed Nicholls from Aon. Around the 50th floor, they saw the first firefighters. “What floor did you come from?” one of the firefighters asked. “Seventy-eight, and there’s a lot of people
was still standing. An hour earlier, she had begun her descent from Beast Financial, on the 80th floor of the north tower, dressed for a business meeting in a navy blouse and a beige skirt. In an instant, she was in the air, her navy blue shoes flashing before her eyes just before she slammed into the window of Borders Books. Her mouth, nose, and ears were clogged with gunk, her eyes covered with fiberglass splinters. With every breath she drew grit into her chest. She felt intense pain in her