102 Minutes Summary

Jim Dwyer,Kevin Flynn

102 Minutes

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102 Minutes Summary

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102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn is the true account of various people’s attempts to survive during the one hundred and two minutes that elapsed on September 11, 2001, from the time of the first impact to the second collapse during the terrorist attacks. The authors, both journalists for the New York Times published the book in 2005. They used the firsthand accounts of eyewitnesses to the event to gather the stories that form the basis of the text.

As the authors point out, 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, is a defining moment in the lives of anyone old enough to remember. Where people were and who they were with when they first learned of the unfolding terrorist attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers of the World Trade Center will always be etched in their minds. The book raises the question in the minds of readers of how they would have reacted had they been in the Trade Center on that morning as summer approached fall. Dwyer and Flynn attempt to capture the shock and terror people felt in the minutes leading up to the collapse of the North Tower.

Stanley Praimnath was an employee of a Japanese bank located on the eighty-first floor of the South Tower. He was one of the earliest to evacuate the building after the first plane made impact. Soon after arriving in the lobby of the building, he received instructions to return to his office; he did so. It was 9:02 a.m. as he sat at his desk talking to a business associate in another city. As he sat and looked out the window, a plane headed toward the window sending Praimnath seeking cover beneath his desk as the colleague on the other end of the line watched what was unfolding on television. In Praimnath’s office, the ceiling fell in.

A few seconds before the second plane made impact with the South Tower, Aon Corporation insurance broker Alan Mann had entered a seventy-eighth-floor elevator. As a result of the plane making contact with the building, the elevator car’s cables were cut, sending it into a freefall toward the bottom of the tower. The two dozen aboard the elevator fell to their knees as their plunge continued. Near the lobby, an emergency brake system engaged, slowing the car, but not averting it being crushed and soon thereafter, engulfed by flames.

Still other stories add voices to the narrative. The accounts range from direct observations to messages and conversation transcripts that became available in the years immediately following the event. The most graphic messages with the most specific details have been used by Dwyer and Flynn to try to capture the horror and drama of the morning as accurately as possible. For example, the tale of Jan Demczur is particularly vivid. Demczur was a Polish immigrant working as a window washer. He was in an elevator along with five other men at the moment the first plane struck the building. One of them pushed the emergency button to stop the elevator. They managed to pry the door open but found that it revealed nothing but a wall, leaving them trapped with no means of escape. Demczur also had a background in construction work and was able to identify the material from which the elevator shaft was lined. He then used the metal edge of his window washing squeegee to scrape at the wall. After the squeegee accidentally fell from his hand and down the shaft, he was able to utilize another tool to break through the wallboard and then some ceramic tiles. The group was able to get through the opening and into a fiftieth-floor bathroom.

In addition to stories with positive outcomes, the authors include, not surprisingly, those with somber endings as well. For example, they put forth the notion that many of the people who jumped from windows on the upper floors of the towers may not have done so by choice but were pushed by others who were jockeying for a place near the window for themselves. One of the challenges faced by the authors of a book such as 102 Minutes is creating a cohesive narrative from a myriad of diverse sources. Those inside the buildings had less of an idea of what was going on than did those on the “outside” thus adding a level of confusion to their accounts.

The New York Times said of the book, “Dwyer and Flynn have done a remarkable job of resisting the temptations of hindsight. They have recreated the moments in which we lost our capacity for that kind of surprise and given us a fitting tribute to the people caught up in one of the great dramas of our time. And for people still haunted by the events of that day, reading 102 Minutes provides a cathartic release.”