Saturday, November 04, 2006

Non-fiction - "102 Minutes"

The full title of this book is "102 Minutes: The untold story of the fight to survive inside the twin towers" and it's authors are Jim Swyer and Kevin Flynn. The book describes the experiences of people who were in the two World Trade Center towers on September 11th.

Some of the stories told in the book are well known. For example, I have read and seen some films on how Brian Clark helped Stanley Praimnath get out of the 81 floor on WTC 2, shortly after the second plane hit. Other descriptions I was reading for the first time.

The book contains some drawings and details of the damage done to the buildings. From these it is obvious that in the first tower all escape routes were cut off for the people who were above the impact zone. In the second tower one staircase survived and it was used by a handful of people for escape from above the impact zone. More people might have escaped if they had known about the route. However, the advice they got from 911 operators was to stay put and wait for the firemen.

One section of the book describes how the NY City building codes were relaxed in the late sixties, just in time for the WTC construction. So, for example, WTC had only three staircases as compared to six that are present in the Empire State building. Furthermore, the older buildings were required to have a hardened staircase - "fire tower" - but this requirement was dropped for newer buildings.

Parts of the book are very sad as they include the conversations that people trapped in the building had with their families, when they began to realize that there was no way out. Suprizingly a handful of people survived the building collapse, including two policemen who were a subject of a recent movie.

I felt a little eerie reading the book, as I was downtown Manhattan and I witnessed the second crash and I saw the first building collapse. It was quite a surreal day - as I was close enough to see everything, but I was in no danger. As I was reading the book I kept remembering what I was doing at a specific time...


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