Monday, June 27, 2005
102 Minutes : The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn
It is shocking to look back and absorb that it only took 102 minutes. Almost 4 years later, we are still dealing with the fallout.
102 Minutes serves up a well-written, absorbing and highly detailed, moment-by-moment account of the 102 minutes from the impact of Flight 11 until the collapse of the second tower. Dwyer and Flynn, two reporters for the New York Times, have drawn on interviews, first-hand accounts, radio and 9-11 phone transcripts, cell phone and email messages, and official reports, to put together a staggeringly detailed and vividly realized account that weaves together lives, observations, stories and testimony into an absorbing and comprehensive whole.
102 Minutes is a very difficult book to pick up and even harder to put down. The book traces the events of the day, the paths of the survivors, the observations, structural forensic engineering studies, and the many heart-breaking communiques of the trapped. 102 Minutes is THE account to read.
Of particular note is the authors work at examining the base causes that often determined who lived and who died - both from the engineering side, examining the construction of the towers - and the short-sighted, preventable mistakes that ultimately contributed to high losses of rescue personnel in the disaster (of particular note - the lack of coordination between the various police and fire units, the inability of the older radio sets being used to enable communication with firefighters in the towers, the lack of communication between structural engineers who were observing the disaster and predicting a potential collapse - the list goes on...).
The book is strictly limited to the events at the WTC - not covering the attack on the Pentagon or the events on Flight 93 but in covering the WTC the way they have, the authors have put together an account that is hard, but brilliant.
102 Minutes is hard to top, both for the strength of its well-written prose, or for the careful detailed investigation that it reflects.
For more reading on 9/11 I also recommend Dennis Smith's superlative Report from Ground Zero: The Story of the Rescue Efforts at the World Trade Center.
Dennis Smith is a retired New York City firefighter turned author (Report from Engine Co. 92 is probably his most notable work). Smith has written a deeply personal and intensely moving account of the events of the day and the grim aftermath of three months working on The Pile, sifting the wreckage for the fallen and the lost. Smith's story is a chronicle of that loss, pulling out the first-hand accounts of firefighters, police and emergency workers and looking at the emotional aftermath and impact on the NYFD.
Also of note is, naturally enough, The 9/11 Commission Report...
For a good account of the engineering background on the collapse, check out this civil engineering site and for some background on the WTC, check out Great Buildings Online.
Visit the somewhat controversial plans for the WTC Memorial here, or view the site itself through EarthCams.
For still more info, drop by the September 11th Digital Archive. You might also want to have a look at Time Magazine's online photo essay, Shattered.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Himalaya by Michael Palin
"Buddhism is a very steep religion."
This type of trenchent observation is what makes Michael Palin's travels a genuine joy to behold.
Having gone "Around the World in 80 Days", travelled "Full Circle" and traipsed across the Sahara. Michael Palin and his indefatigable BBC crew elected to visit the high peaks of the Himalaya. Covering 1800 miles, from Afghanistan to the China, the Himalaya is the highest mountain range in the world encompassing the top 14 tallest mountains in the world and some 30 peaks higher than 25,000 feet.
Palin and his crew delve into the peaks of K2 and Everest, the mysteries of Lhasa, Nagaland, Nepal, Kashmir, Tibet as well as the fringes of the range in Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass, wandering pell-mell in a 3,000 mile journey that took them the better part of 6 months. Among other areas they trace the major river systems down into India (Ganges), Bangladesh (Brahmaputra) and China (Yangtze), exploring the peoples and the politics that permeate the region. Palin brings his extraordinary good humor, patience and off-beat charm to their travels, whether it is chatting with the Dalai Lama in exile, or watching a cricket match in the high peaks of Nagaland.
One of the most enjoyable elements of Palin's travels is the sheer joy of the act of travel that is clearly evident in his work. The other key element is his focus less on history, geography and poltiics and more on the people that live in the region and their day-to-day lives. He makes deliberate efforts to avoid the usual meetings with authority figures, concentrating instead on the everyday encounters of life and the travails of survival in the high ranges.
In short, Himalaya is fun, effortless read that really does make a reader want to walk a mile in Palin's shoes, or perhaps just alongside him on one of his wayward treks.
You can watch Himayala on DVD, but I also recommend checking out Basil Pao's amazing photography of the journey in Inside Himalaya. He does an excellent job capturing the sheer immensity and scale of the landscape in question.
Find out about trekking the Himalaya here (also with some very nice photography) and here, visit Everest or learn about the culture and anthropology of the region at Digital Himalaya.
Here's a nice satellite image, courtesy of NASA's Visible Earth site, of Everest from orbit...damn big, isn't it?
Find out about how the Himalaya were created at Nova Online's Everest site and check out this famous fellow...no, he's not another member of Monty Python.
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