After nearly 10 years of conflicted silence, a celebrated 9/11 survivor describes what it was like for him living with memories of 9/11 for the past decade.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Michael Benfante went to work, just like he had day after day, at his office on 81st floor in the World Trade Center North Tower. Moments after the first plane struck, just 12 floors above him, Benfante organized his terrified employees, getting them out of the office and moving down the stairwells. On his way down, he and another co-worker encountered a woman in a wheelchair on the 68th floor. Benfante, the woman, and Benfante's co-worker then embarked on a 96-minute odyssey of escape - the two men carrying the woman down 68 flights of stairs, out of the North Tower, and into an ambulance that rushed her to safety just minutes before the tower imploded.
A CBS video camera caught Benfante just as he got out of the building, and almost immediately, the national media came calling. Benfante sat on the couch with Oprah Winfrey, where she hailed him as a hero. Almost one year to the day after 9/11, Benfante got married, and the woman in the wheelchair sat in the front row.
That's the storybook ending. But in the aftermath of 9/11, Benfante began a journey fraught with wrenching personal challenges of critical, emotional, and psychological depth which he captures here in Reluctant Hero. Benfante shares the trappings of his public heroism, the loneliness of his private anguish, and the hope he finds for himself and for us. Because all of us - whether we were in the towers in New York City or someplace else - are 9/11 survivors.
On September 11, 2001, author Michael Benfante’s heroic actions during the devastating terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center catapulted him to national fame; but the grim circumstances of his publicity haunted him in the years that followed. Ten years after the fact, Benfante published Reluctant Hero, a thoughtful and deeply moving treatise on loss, grief, and the psychological damage that he and many other Americans have endured since that fateful day.
Chris Ruen’s measured performance of this memoir provides much-needed grounding for the heavy emotionality of this valuable narrative.
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Gripping account of 9/11 and the lessons learned
- Eric Schurr
After The Horrors