102 Minutes

I wanted to get this book reviewed before I didn’t have the time to anymore. I’m starting a new job next week and I’m not sure how much time I’m going to have for writing/blogging. I haven’t even finished this book yet, I’ve got twenty pages left but I plan on flipping back to the beginning and starting over. Just like the book I read a couple months back on the Rwanda disaster (reviewed HERE), this is another one that will stay with me.

The two authors, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, have crafted an absolutely riveting story about the terrorist attacks of September 11th four years ago. I’m the kind of guy who enjoys the type of stories that engulf you and cause you to emote. I mean, isn’t that the point of reading something? You want to enjoy a good book. Laugh, cry, discuss. All of those things are what SHOULD be the after effects of a good read. If an author can draw these kind of emotions from you, based on something they’ve written, then I’d consider that a successful tale.

The book jumps back and forth between dramatic escape attempts by the desperate people inside and discussions of the building itself, the design of it, and how it was supposed to work.

There is plenty of finger pointing to be done but the authors do a good job of spreading the blame around. They discuss how the original architects of the building claimed that it would withstand the direct impact of a large airliner due to its unprecedented design but the new codes they used to build it didn’t take into consideration the ferocity of the plane’s fuel (and that’s what ultimately seemed to really down the towers, the intense heat). The authors also talk about how the safety features were minimized to provide maximum office space, hence maximum profits due to more rentable space. The fact that the building was built with new “streamlined” building codes is discussed as well. The breakdown in communication between different agencies is talked about too, mostly the dynamic between the police department and the fire department. They mention that this relationship was not necessarily a malicious attempt at undermining each others’ efforts but more just a decades-long haughtiness and bullheadedness between the departments. Jurisdiction battles and protocol conflicts were to blame for many of the deaths and the authors let you know it.

It’s a thoroughly engrossing read, and I haven’t been bored once throughout. Although I’m not an engineer, the descriptions of the building design and the statistics are not mind blowing. Dwyer and Flynn do an excellent job of describing the codes without being condescending or “dumbing it down” for us laymen.

I think that the most difficult part for me is when they tell you, towards the beginning of the book, that there were no survivors above a certain floor in each tower. After giving you this dire news, within each tale of the victims they interject what floor they are on before giving you the heart-wrenching story of the final phone calls and the minutes leading up to the collapse of each tower. Since you know that all people above a certain floor were not successful in escaping, then each story becomes even MORE tragic.

Or how about the people jumping from the higher floors? There’s eyewitness reports in the book about how some people held hands and just stepped out their windows, while one particular instance tells of a man who was pushed out the window. Not a result of hostility but an accidental shove from someone who tried to get to the window and some oxygen.

Each chapter begins with a timestamp so you are aware of all these inside events as they relate to what we were all watching from the television. This timestamp really gives you a sense of impending doom as you read about all of these people.

I’m not sure how to recommend the book, honestly. It’s put together amazingly well and I’m finding out more information than I ever knew about the World Trade Center complex and the tragedy four years ago. If you’re like some people and prefer to keep your head in the sand and ignore the ugliness of mankind and what we can do to each other, then I would NOT recommend this one to you. It’s difficult to comprehend a disaster of this magnitude but in order to stop it from happening again, we must study it and learn from it.

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