102 Minutes The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

Times Books



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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A New York Times Notable Book
National Book Award Finalist

At 8:46 A.M. 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 have been from the outside looking in. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the opposite—and far more revealing—approach. Reported solely from the perspective of the people inside the towers, 102 Minutes is the epic account of ordinary men and women who saved themselves and others. Among them:

—The construction manager and his colleagues, who pried open doors and freed dozens of people trapped high in the north tower.

—The police officer who was a few blocks away, filing his retirement papers, but grabbed back his badge and sprinted to the buildings.

—The window washer stuck in an elevator fifty floors up with five other men, who used a squeegee to escape.

—The secretaries who led an elderly man down eighty-nine flights, and the young executives who carried a disabled woman from the 68th floor.

—The fire chief (and marathoner) who was the first rescuer to reach the injured and the trapped on the 78th floor of the south tower, after a grueling dash up the stairs wearing fifty pounds of gear.

Chance encounters, moments of grace, a shout across an office shaped these minutes, marking the border between fear and solace, staking the boundary between life and death.

From hundred of interviews with rescuers and survivors, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts, Dwyer and Flynn have assembled a gripping narrative that is also investigative reporting of the first rank. They show that even as so many people—uniformed officers and civilians alike—responded with great valor, they did so in a context of inadequate building safety and tragic flaws in New York's emergency preparedness.

Crossing a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos, seeing cataclysm and heroism one person at a time, Dwyer and Flynn tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women—the 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished—as they made 102 minutes count as never before.


Praise for 102 Minutes

"A heart-stopping, meticulous account . . . I suspect that you, like me, will read this book in a single suspenseful sitting, even though we know the ending."—James B. Stewart, The New York Times Book Review

"The chief virtue of 102 Minutes, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's unsparing, eloquent history of the struggle to survive inside the World Trade Center, is the authors' insistence that truth supplant myth. However comforting myths may be after a defeat, they're useless in assessing what went wrong and may actually be impediments to preventing future disasters . . . With its clear prose, 102 Minutes does an admirable job of demonstrating that, in many ways, the most effective first responders on Sept. 11 were not police officers or firefighters but civilians. Their stories are well-told, stirring, and heart-breaking . . . This emphasis on the civilians in no way detracts from the heroism of the professional first responders. Their gallantry is movingly described, as is their indispensable role in ensuring calm in the stairwells, assisting the injured, and guiding the evacuees on the lower floors."—John Farmer (former senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission), The Washington Post Book World

"An astounding reconstruction of what happened inside the World Trade Center . . . These are stories, after all, you have to share."—Susannah Meadows, Newsweek

"Exhaustively researched and smoothly written . . . Dwyer and Flynn's most impressive achievement: writing in a way that confers dignity on each subject. This is one book that will stay with most readers for a very long time."—Michelle Green, People

"A masterpiece of reporting . . . Succinct . . . Riveting enough to be read in a sitting . . . Heart-wrenching . . . Brilliant and troubling."—Kevin Baker, The New York Times

"Poignant, emotion-stirring, and important . . . A story of how ordinary people exhibit extraordinary traits in times of peril."—Tom Walker, The Denver Post

"It took the authors three years to describe what happened in 102 Minutes . . . The book is worth the wait."—Ingrid Ahlgren, The Providence Journal

"The writing—sometimes searing, sometimes factual but always appropriate—brings the human experience of disaster into focus."—Rosemary Herbert, Boston Herald

"Many of the stories are astounding; almost all are heart-breaking . . . They accord these men and women the honor they deserve."—Brian Palmer, Newsday

"102 Minutes does for the September 11 catastrophe at New York's World Trade Center what Walter Lord did for the Titanic in his masterpiece, A Night to Remember. Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have written a book that is searing, poignant, and utterly compelling."—Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn

"This is a heart-stopping, heart-breaking book. It is an infuriating one. Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn give us vivid examples of uncommon valor in the face of approaching doom. Nobody can read those pages without feeling a chilly surge of fear. But they also give us—in lucid, understated prose—explanations for the immensity of the calamity. In short, this is an essential document about New York's worst human tragedy. And it's a terrific book."—Peter Hamill, author of Downtown: My Manhattan

"For those of us haunted by the tragedy, an indispensable book."—O magazine

"A powerful account of the disaster that hesitates neither to confer laurels nor point fingers . . . [Dwyer and Flynn] celebrate the extraordinary capacities of ordinary folk. Swift, photographic prose defines the dimensions of hell—and of humanity."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In the Press

102 MINUTES by Jim Dwyer, Kevin FlynnKirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of 102 MINUTES The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers. Two <i>New York Times <i>reporters take us inside the World Trade Center on 911 to give us a more capacious view of heroism.

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Read an Excerpt

102 Minutes
1"It's a bomb, let's get out of here."8:46 A.M. NORTH TOWER 
A bomb, Dianne DeFontes thought, when thinking became possible again. At 8:46:30, an impact had knocked her off a chair in the law office on the 89th floor of the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. The door swung free, even though she had bolted it shut. In another part of the floor, Walter Pilipiak had just pushed open the door to the offices of Cosmos International, an insurance brokerage where he was president. Akane Ito heard him coming and looked up from her desk to greet him. Before Pilipiak could get the
Read the full excerpt


  • Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

  • Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, native New Yorkers, veteran newspaper reporters, and winners of many awards together and separately, now work at The New York Times.


    Jim Dwyer is coauthor of Two Seconds Under the World, an account of the 1993 effort to knock down the World Trade Center, and of Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted. He is also the author of Subway Lives: 24 Hours in the Life of the New York City Subway.


    Kevin Flynn, a special projects editor at the Times, was the newspaper's police bureau chief on September 11. He previously worked as a reporter for the New York Daily News, New York Newsday, and the Stamford Advocate.

  • Jim Dwyer
  • Kevin Flynn
    Kevin Flynn